Skip Navigation

WITF History

1963–The South Central Educational Broadcasting Council is created.  Its mission is to bring public television to Central Pennsylvania.

November 22, 1964–adopting the call letters that stand for “It’s Top Flight”, WITFTV began broadcasting from studios in Hershey. Initial support came from the state PTA, Hershey Estates (now HERCO), commercial broadcasters and private contributions from individuals and businesses. The funds were then matched by the Ford Foundation and state and federal government.

1964–Lloyd Kaiser began serving as WITF’s first Chief Executive Officer.

1964-1970–Early original productions include Our World in Focus (1964), Sons and Daughters (1967), Adventures in the Arts (1967) and A Time to Act (1968).

1965– WITFTV installed a translator (channel 38) to extend its signal reach to Franklin County. 

1970–Robert F. Larson was named WITF’s second Chief Executive Officer.

April 1, 1971– WITFFM signed on the air with Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.  Expanding its mission of education and culture through the medium of radio, WITF-FM became the first classical station for all of central Pennsylvania. 

1977–The “Tall Tower Campaign” raises funds to build a 740-foot broadcast tower on Blue Mountain, expanding the reach of WITF-TV and WITF-FM.

March 28, 1979– WITFFM provided extensive coverage during an accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant that captured national attention.  NPR reporter Cokie Roberts reported from the WITF-FM studio.

September 27, 1982–The first official day of operations at 1982 Locust Lane, Harrisburg.

September 24, 1982, Moved out of temporary quarters in former Hershey Middle School (across parking lot from Hershey Theatre)

1984–Stewart Cheifet named WITF’s third Chief Executive Officer.

June 1, 1985–Central PA Magazine (formerly Apprise) was born, evolving from WITF’s original program guide, and extending its mission further through the medium of print.

January 1990–Desert Island Discs, hosted by Ellen Hughes, premiered with Larry Newland, former Harrisburg Symphony Music Director, as the featured guest. 

1992– WITF-FM installed a translator (frequency 99.7) to enhance its signal in the city of Lancaster.

1994–Jane D. Coleman named WITF’s fourth Chief Executive Officer

June 1996– WITFpresents the first Next Generation Festival, a series of free chamber music concerts performed by rising talent, the “next generation” of nationally acclaimed musicians.

1997–A website is born… takes its place on the World Wide Web.

August 26, 1998– WITFTV made history by launching Pennsylvania’s first digital television channel.  WITF-DT Channel 36 became one of seven public broadcasting pioneers in America to transmit digital programming. 

1999–Kathleen A. Pavelko named WITF’s fifth Chief Executive Officer.

May 20, 2000–The WITF Board of Directors approved the first comprehensive strategic plan in WITF’s history, a plan that sharpened the mission, identified the values by which WITF operates, and approved a capital campaign, Building for a Lifetime of Learning, to build the first new headquarters in the organization’s history.

June 1, 2000–WITF creates a for-profit subsidiary, WITF Enterprises, Inc., to operate its Radio Pennsylvania network and other revenue-generating activities.

2001–As an outgrowth of the strategic plan, WITF unveiled a new logo and graphic identity that signals its invigorated mission of lifelong learning through technology. 

April 1, 2001– WITF-FM celebrated its 30th year of providing news, information, and classical music to the region. 

September 11, 2001–As the earliest reports came into the newsroom, all of WITF’s media responded to provide the needed facts, context, understanding, and comfort in the wake of the attacks on the United States. 

2002– WITF purchased a 12-acre tract of land in Swatara Township as the site for the first purpose-built facility in WITF‘s history, to be constructed with funds raised in TheWITFCampaign: Building for a Lifetime of Learning.

2003– WITF launched The award-winning website uses the state’s historical markers system as an entry point to bring history to life for visitors, students, teachers, and history buffs. The site integrates tourism tools, rich and accurate information, and the only PA standards-based lesson plans for teaching Pennsylvania history.

November 2004– WITF added to its public media services with the launch of Public Radio Capitol News (PRCN), a radio news operation designed to serve its affiliates across the state with the news from Pennsylvania’s Capitol. 

November 22, 2004– WITF celebrated the 40th anniversary of its first TV broadcast.

July 22, 2005–Groundbreaking for WITFs 75,000 square foot Public Media Center in Swatara Township, Dauphin County.

November 27, 2006–WITFstaff move into the new Public Media Center (PMC).

2006–WITF Enterprises develops a new business, Top Flight Media, an advertising agency which evolved from the clients of Radio Pennsylvania.

April 21, 2007– WITF celebrates the opening of the New PMC with the first annual gala: Where Ideas Take Flight.

April 29, 2007–The public is invited to their new Home For Curiosity with a WITFFamily Day.

November 2007–WITF establishes a board-designated endowment for oversight of funds received in a 30-year lease of Educational Broadcast Spectrum (EBS).

October 2008– WITF premieres Radio Smart Talk: Coping with the Economy – a live, call-in radio program to help our audience deal with the economic crisis in America.

December 2008–In response to audience demand, WITF makes Radio Smart Talk a permanent addition to the weekday FM line-up.

January 9, 2009– WITF Launches WYPM 93.3 FM Trusted Information from WITF in Chambersburg and reaches 400,000 new listeners in all or parts of Franklin, Adams, Fulton, Cumberland, Huntingdon, Perry and Juniata counties.

July 2009–The approved state budget for FY10 reduces operating grants to stations by 87.5% over the previous fiscal year.  For WITF, state funding was reduced to $114,000 vs. $917,000 in FY09.

September 23, 2009–The WITF Board of Directors approve On Trusted Ground: The WITF 50th Anniversary Campaign.

February 2010–First broadcast of WITF’s Central PA Spelling Bee. Winners of this regional contest compete in the national Scripps Spelling Bee in May of each year.

July 2010–Effective for FY11, all state funding was eliminated.

July 2011–WITF partners with NPR and WHYY in StateImpact PA, an exploration of the state’s energy economy. This multimedia, multi-year project continued in 2013 with WHYY.

July 2011–WITF partners with the Patriot-News to publish Central PA Magazine.

August 2011Ready, Set, Go Kindergarten! launched at the Public Media Center. This event helps families and soon-to-be kindergarteners get ready for the transition to school.

2012–WITF launches Ready, Set, Explore events at locations around the region. These “family play date” events are smaller scale versions of Ready, Set, Go Kindergarten!

April 2012–WITF launches Facing Cancer Together with partners WellSpan Health, Lancaster General Health and Pinnacle Health.  In 2013, the project becomes Transforming Health to address significant changes in the American health care system and the Affordable Care Act. This multimedia, multi-year project continued in 2014 with Penn State Hershey Medical Center as a partner.

June 25, 2012– WITF89.5 and 93.3 shift toan all-news and information format.  For the first time, WITF is able to bring listeners some of NPR’s most requested programs, including The Diane Rehm Show and Talk of the Nation, as well as the BBC World Service.

March 2014Keystone Crossroads, a multimedia exploration of the challenges facing Pennsylvania’s  municipalities, launches with WITF, WHYY/Philadelphia, WESA-FM/Pittsburgh and WPSU/State College as partners.

October 2014–WITF begins production of the PA Lottery nightly drawing from the Greenwald TV Studio.

November 2014–WITF begins celebration of its 50th Anniversary with the annual Premier Circle Dinner (and special guest NPR White House Correspondent Tamara Keith).

2015–Four exhibits in the Lowengard Atrium showcase WITF over its 50 years of service: WITF: A Walk Through the Decades, Remembering the Channel 33 Auction, WITF: Growing Great Kids Since 1964 and Tech Tsunami: Surfing the Wave with WITF.

January 2015–WITF’s Board of Directors forms a Spectrum Auction Committee to evaluate WITF’s participation in the FCC’s auction of broadcast spectrum.

October 2015–WITF’s Board of Directors votes to approve participation in the FCC’s auction of broadcast spectrum.

November 22, 2015–More than 550 friends and donors gather at the Hershey Lodge for the 50th Anniversary Gala, the concluding event of WITF’s 50th Anniversary celebration.

December 2015–Top Flight Media is rebranded as TFM Advertising, to better indicate its identity as a full-service advertising agency.

January 2016–WITF receives first funding for Explore in the Classroom (in York) from Pennsylvania’s EITC program. The funding supports in-classroom interactions with PBS characters and distributes free books to kindergarten and 1st grade students.

March 2016–First Smart Talk Road Trip (live remote broadcast) from the Lancaster train station. 

October 2016–TFM Advertising dissolved as a for-profit business of WITF Enterprises, Inc.

January 18, 2017–Forward portion of the FCC’s Spectrum Auction concludes. As a result of a channel sharing agreement, Tribune Broadcasting Inc. and WITF share $50,109,235 in spectrum proceeds. The agreement stipulates that WITF will share its broadcast spectrum with WPMT-TV.

June 3, 2017–Antiques Roadshow (AnRo) visits Harrisburg (Farm Show Arena) for the first time; 4,000 attendees bring their treasures for evaluation; the three Harrisburg episodes will lead the broadcasts of AnRo’s 22nd season, in January 2018.

July 2017–Small amount state funding restored ($31,000 for WITF vs. previous $970,000).

December 12, 2017–The end of the On Trusted Ground capital campaign is celebrated, having raised $4.6 million in funds to support WITF programs and operations.

January 3, 2018–Channel sharing with WPMT-TV commences.

January 2018–Final issue of Central PA magazine is published.

January 2018–The written test portion of the 2018 Central PA Spelling Bee was held on January 21 with 181 spellers participating, the largest number of students to date. Thirty-four students advanced to the Grand Championship on February 24, which was won by Surabi Shanmugam, a 7th grader at Eagle View Middle School in Cumberland Valley School District, with the correct spelling of the word abseil.

March 2018–WITF is honored with 11 RTDNA Regional Edward R. Murrow awards – the second most in the country (behind WBUR) and the most ever received by WITF. One of the honors was for Overall Excellence, others were for Digital Innovation, Breaking News, Documentary and newscast.

June 10, 2018–Kathleen A. Pavelko, after nearly 20 years as WITF’s President and CEO, announced her plans to retire as of December 31, 2018. Pavelko successfully navigated WITF through a changing media landscape, leading the organization from a cramped elementary schoolhouse to a contemporary hilltop Public Media Center.

September 2018PA Post launches. PA Post is a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens. The mission of PA Post is to connect Pennsylvanians to their state, and each other, with accountability and deep-dive reporting that is multimedia, digital-first, audience-focused and distributed statewide.

October 2018–WITF accepts 2 national Edward R. Murrow awards, the 15th such awards WITF has received since 2007. The awards recognize two projects that look back at the Vietnam War’s impact on our region. One is for excellence in innovation for the multimedia website led by Michael Williams and the interactive team, and the other is for Tim Lambert’s feature report called Finding Solace at the Wall.

December 2018–PA Post crosses the $1 million threshold in funds raised, against a goal of raising $1.5 million for the first 2 years of operation.

January 2019–WITF’s Central PA Spelling Bee featured 4th-8th graders from 10 Central Pa. counties. Approximately 180 spellers from 62 public, parochial, independent, cyber and charter schools qualified as semi-finalists. Thirty-five students advanced to the finals and the grand champion was Vikram Kakaria.

April 2, 2019–Ron Hetrick named sixth Chief Executive Officer.

April 2019–WITF is honored by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) with six Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards — Overall Excellence, Investigative Reporting, Best Use of Sound, Newscast Feature Reporting, and Multimedia for StateImpact Pennsylvania.

July 2019–The Three Mile Island Accident’s 40th Anniversary collaborative project between WITF and PA Post  was named a finalist by the Online Journalism Association for the Gather Award in Engaged Journalism.