Western Reserve Public Media not only embraces regionalism, it is regionalism. Western Reserve PBS is the only broadcast television service in the area that links together the entire Northeast Ohio region.
The Creation of Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc.
During the 1960s, the state of Ohio was determined that every citizen should be able to receive a public television signal. Three Northeast Ohio universities — The University of Akron, Kent State University and Youngstown State University – were interested in activating their own public television station. Because the state would have to provide a large part of the ongoing funding, it determined that a single station would be a more efficient and effective use of state funds. It asked the universities to work together to form a consortium to determine the organizational structure of the single station. As a result, the State of Ohio approved the incorporation of Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc., on August 3, 1971, as a nonprofit corporation. In 1974, the IRS approved the station’s application for 501(c)(3) status.
The nonprofit corporation’s Board of Directors was also established, with each university having equal representation. In 2006 the Board of Directors was expanded to include more community representation, and six additional board member positions were added to the roster. With this change, each consortium university continues to be represented by its president and four appointees.
WNEO-TV went on the air on May 30, 1973. It is licensed to the city of Alliance and serves the Youngstown designated television market on channel 45.
Soon after WNEO-TV was operational, it became clear that the transmitter tower in Salem was not high enough to allow Akron, Kent and even parts of Youngstown in the Mahoning Valley to receive an adequate signal. Owners of the Akron ABC affiliate, WAKR-TV 23, offered a solution. They built a tall tower just west of town, changed their frequency from channel 49 to channel 23, and then donated channel 49 for educational television purposes. WEAO-TV began broadcasting on channel 49 in 1975 as a satellite of WNEO-TV. It is licensed to the city of Akron and serves the Cleveland-Akron (Canton) designated television market on channel 49.
In 1978, an additional translator station, W58AM Channel 58 was added to serve the low-lying areas of the Mahoning Valley. The frequency changed in 2009 from W58AM to W44CR-D.
In January 1990, Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio became the first Ohio public television station to broadcast 24 hours a day. For budgetary reasons, the schedule had to be reduced to 21 hours in the early 1990s, but resumed around-the-clock service in
Western Reserve Public Media began planning for the federally mandated digital conversions of both WNEO and WEAO in 1996. It launched its digital multicasting service in 2003 and a high definition (HD) channel in 2007.
Western Reserve Public Media completed the analog-to-digital TV conversion for its WNEO signal on Nov. 21, 2008. WEAO, channel 49, converted to digital on June 12, 2009.
Digital conversion was an expensive undertaking for the organization. Basic conversion of transmission equipment, tower strengthening and master control cost more than $7 million.
PBS 45 & 49
In the summer of 1998, the organization introduced a new identity as PBS 45 & 49. The purpose of the new name and logo was to streamline the two channel designations while reinforcing the organization’s PBS affiliation.
Western Reserve Public Media Stations
On Oct. 1, 2008, PBS 45 & 49 became Western Reserve Public Media. The new identity was chosen to better reflect the organization’s regional coverage, which unifies the major metropolitan areas of Northeast Ohio — Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Youngstown/Warren. Western Reserve Public Media also represents the full range of the organization’s broadcast, Internet, new media, education, print services and more.
Under this new umbrella identity, the channels PBS 45 & 49 are Western Reserve PBS and continue to operate as the primary broadcast service of the organization. The two public television stations known as Western Reserve PBS (WNEO 45.1/WEAO 49.1) are high definition channels that are jointly licensed and broadcast a single, simultaneous service.
Western Reserve Public Media also offers three standard definition channels. Fusion (WNEO 45.2/WEAO 49.2) features programming including regional productions, arts and performance, public affairs and BBC Worldwide offerings, plus “Classic Arts Showcase” programming. MHz Worldview (WNEO 45.3/WEAO 49.3) offers English-language international public broadcasting content, while V-me (WNEO 45.4/WEAO 49.4) provides Spanish-language public television.