Innovation has always been at the heart of WGBH, such as introducing cooking programs on TV (thank you, Julia Child) to launching a whole genre of home improvement television with This Old House, to inventing closed captioning. FRONTLINE was a pioneer in journalistic transparency; 25 years ago it was the first series to post full transcripts of interviews online. But how we innovate, and for what purpose, changes all the time.
With social distancing requiring new channels for us to connect, we’re enlisting new approaches to informing and supporting our community.
WGBH’s popular chefs Lidia Bastianich and Ming Tsai are cooking live from their home kitchens on Facebook and Instagram, and showing us how to best support local restaurants. WGBH’s wildly popular ZOOM series is returning with “ZOOM into Action!” Every day over the next several weeks, Pablo Velez, a 1999 cast member, will join fellow ZOOMers from the ’70s and ’90s to share fan-inspired activities from past episodes that families can do at home. Our Early Edition radio program is now streamed to Facebook Live as a Zoom meeting.
Our investigative journalism series FRONTLINE has transformed its reporting for upcoming films into a new podcast on covering coronavirus and, at a time when so many schedules are being relaxed out of necessity, FRONTLINE is streaming films hours before they broadcast. Our audio partner PRX is curating podcasts for quarantining. WGBH News created a new radio show/podcast In It Together, broadcast from our host’s home, just days after the coronavirus crisis began and our popular Lunch Hour Live series from our studio at the Boston Public Library is now broadcast remotely from home sets. Last week, we launched a virtual Book Club to further connect with our community.
However, social distancing also has made television essential, not just for news and information, but for students who don’t have access to the internet. According to a survey released this week by research firm Parks Associates, the use of TV antennas jumped to 25 percent in 2019 among broadband households—and that figure is expected to grow this year. Last month, WGBH’s Education department, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and WORLD Channel, launched a daily block of educational programming on over-the-air television for families of school-aged children. As WGBH has known for nearly 70 years, broadcast channels can be a unifier, connecting us all through shared favorite programs. And it can bridge communities and cultures, as we saw this month as theaters closed and we broadcast the previously-taped live production of the Huntington Theatre Company’s one-woman play, Mala. Drama fans tune in to WGBH 2 every Sunday night for MASTERPIECE (or they can binge their favorite programs here or on the PBS Video App).
And there’s more to come. Later this month, our Emerging Platforms Initiativewill enableaudiences to play along on Twitch with episodes from our popular academic competition High School Quiz Show in real time.
We’re all rethinking how we innovate during this unprecedented time while doubling down on what we know works already to connect to people and bring meaningful content into their lives when they need it the most.
How are you innovating?