Posted: June 19, 2012


Outstanding tradition continues in 2013 with Shakespeare marathon, Sir David Attenborough mini-series, profiles of Mel Brooks and Joseph Papp, and new series from Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

New York’s THIRTEEN, the flagship station of PBS, celebrates 50 years of setting the gold standard for television and providing exceptional community and educational services to the New York metropolitan area.

Half a century ago, on September 16, 1962, legendary newscaster Edward R. Murrow introduced channel13, WNDT – “New Dimensions in Television,” which would later evolve into WNET.  In the inaugural broadcast, Murrow said “Tonight, you join me on a great adventure…This instrument can teach, it can illuminate, yes, and it can even inspire, but it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends.”

With its glorious past and promising future, THIRTEEN lives up to that mission, offering a relevant alternative to the commercial networks. Its programming was first distributed through the NET program distribution service, but in 1969, shifted to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), now in Washington, D.C.

Neal Shapiro, THIRTEEN’s sixth President and CEO, following Samuel Gould, John Kiermaier, James Day, John Jay Iselin, Dr. William Baker, says, “THIRTEEN has made a remarkable impact on television and New York during its five decades on the air. We’re even more excited to see the possibilities that the next 50 years present. There will surely be new technology and new delivery systems, but there will always be a need for quality content that inspires, educates and engages audiences. That’s a role THIRTEEN is perfectly placed to fulfill.”

As an original architect of PBS, THIRTEEN has pioneered a vision often emulated by the mainstream media.  The station produces acclaimed content for the country’s nearly 360 member public television stations, reaching millions of people with its programs and initiatives.  They include PBS’s most-viewed documentary series Nature; the seminal cultural biography series American Masters; television’s only regular performance arts series Great Performances, which includes Great Performances at the Met; one-of-a-kind reporting about the religious world in Religion and Ethics Newsweekly; the weekly news magazine Need to Know and the children’s on-air and online educational programs  Cyberchase, Oh Noah!, and Mission US.

Among the commemorative events and programs will be:

  • Special programming chronicling the station’s extraordinary contributions to drama, music, historic voices; and key events, interspersed with personal stories told by the people who built THIRTEEN from the very beginning.
  •  Special on-air interstitial material.
  • A commemorative Web site ( )just launched and with more content to come)  featuring interviews with “Pioneers of THIRTEEN” such as  Dick Cavett, TV personality and author;  Joan Ganz Cooney, co-founder of Children’s Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), and Judith Jamison, dancer, choreographer and artistic director emerita, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, among many others, as well as archival footage from the station’s rich legacy including Soul!, An American Family, and USA Arts(with Andy Warhol) which can be previewed by clicking on the hyperlinks.
  • An exciting lineup of programs scheduled for 2013 including a major Shakespeare initiative, anchored by the six-part  documentary series Prefaces to Shakespeare (w.t.), and an all-star  epic  presentation of the Bard’s  History plays (Richard II, Henry VI, Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V) under the title The Divine Right (w.t.) for Great Performances; Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (w.t.); American Masters profiles of Mel Brooks and Joseph Papp, Nature’s three-part Attenborough’s Life (w.t.), richly illustrated with the sequences Sir David Attenborough has spent 60 years capturing; Simon Schama: The History Of The Jews. On the local front, there will be more titles in the well-received Treasures of New York series.
  • A close partnership with community-based organizations to harness TV, radio, and online in order to increase New York City high school graduation rates, in support of the national initiative “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen.”
  • A goal to acquire 50,000 new members and donors over a 12-18 month time frame.

THIRTEEN has been bestowed with television’s highest honors for following its mission.  With nearly every performing arts channel either meeting its demise or changing its intent, the performing arts is one genre that has found its principal home on THIRTEEN through Great Performances, the longest-running performing arts series on television. With its programs garnering 64 Emmy Awards and five George Foster Peabody Awards, Great Performances has received every major television honor. Nature continues to bring the best of the natural world to homes nationwide.  The series has won 10 Emmys and three George Foster Peabody Awards.  Among the American Masters series many awards are 23 Emmys – including for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series eight times since 1999 – the 2012 Producers Guild Award, 12 Peabodys, an Oscar and three Grammys.

THIRTEEN is part of WNET which is also the parent company of WLIW21 and the operator of NJTV.  Beyond television, THIRTEEN continues to connect with our communities with mobile technology.  The station developed comprehensive New York-centric apps with the  MetroFocus iPhone app (, spotlighting local news, transit and culture in and around New York City, and NYC-ARTS, which won’s Readers Choice Awards for the “Best New York City App 2012.”

Among the benchmark series the station produced or presented over the decades were The Adams Chronicles, The Ascent of Man, Bill Moyers’ Journal, The Brain, Charlie Rose, The Constitution: That Delicate Balance,  The Forsyte Saga, Frontier House, Heritage: Civilization and the Jews, Innovation, and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

THIRTEEN’s primetime rating is significantly larger than many cable networks offering “similar” programming in the Tri-State area:   A&E (50% larger); Discovery Channel (58%); History Channel (33%); CNN (50%); FXNC (20%); MSNBC (20%); AMC (58%); and the Food Network (33%).  Demographically, THIRTEEN viewers mirror the New York City population in terms of household income and education. (Source: AC Nielsen 2010-11 Season/Scarborough 2010-11)

THIRTEEN is well positioned to face its next half century with the new Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center, and office space at midtown’s Worldwide Plaza.  With one of the most advanced broadcast and production facilities in the industry, THIRTEEN has been a leader in the creation of high-quality productions. That expertise is combined with the innovative approach that has been a hallmark of THIRTEEN for its entire history.  As new technology transforms the industry, THIRTEEN continues to provide a multi-media experience that enlightens and motivates its viewers.

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 About WNET

New York’s WNET is America’s flagship public media outlet, bringing quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. The parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah!  and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and the new online newsmagazine MetroFocus.



THIRTEEN's 50th Anniversary Logo