Origins of PCN
The Pennsylvania Cable Network was organized in 1979 as a nonprofit corporation by 11 Pennsylvania cable companies. Our original purpose was to provide a cable television network for the distribution of educational programming from Pennsylvania institutions of higher learning under the leadership of Penn State University.
PCN marked the first use of cable technology for distance learning, and was founded as the first educational television network in the nation. Educational programming on PCN was composed of college courses for credit, literacy training programs and general enrichment shows. These programs were organized by Penn State on behalf of participating state institutions of higher learning, a listing which includes the University of Pittsburgh, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and several community colleges.
Development of a Network
Since our inception in 1979, we had used assigned frequencies from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to show our programming, using a signal passed along from participating cable television system to participating cable system under a shared cost agreement. The system, which was interconnected through microwave paths, consisted of an eastern loop and a western loop, which together made a “figure 8” comprising of 796 path miles.
While the system was adequate, we, always seeking to enhance ourselves, investigated initiatives in early 1993 that would eventually change the way we would not only operate, but share our programming, too.
In December 1993, we unveiled our new delivery system, which consisted of a signal using compressed digital satellite technology. The signal – which was one of the first utilizations of compression technology for a cable network, and the first ever by a cable consortium – made the programming signal available throughout Pennsylvania and reduced both the cost and lead-time needed for cable companies to receive the signal.
Public Affairs Programming
Alongside our technical initiatives in the early ’90s, we consulted with participating cable companies to expanded our programming format to include nonpartisan public affairs coverage. This transition from “formal” to “citizen” educational offerings began with coverage of “Capitol for a Day” town meetings in 1992, and continued with the establishment of a Tuesday and Thursday night public affairs programming block in August 1993.
Less than two years later, we were televising daily coverage of the state General Assembly as the “C-SPAN of Pennsylvania.” While live and unedited coverage of legislative activities and events is the focus of PCN public affairs programming, we also televise events showcasing Pennsylvania business, history, culture and people.
PCN has carried the Pennsylvania State Farm Show and Battle of Gettysburg anniversary events since 1995, and has aired walking tours of hundreds of manufacturing facilities in the Commonwealth. With our daily public affairs programming coverage and distribution of educational opportunities for state residents, we define our mission as “A Cable Network Responsive to the Interests and Needs of Pennsylvania and its People.”
In August 1996, PCN ended its 17-year relationship with Penn State and assumed full responsibility for all programming and operations of the 24-hour-a-day network. We continue our tradition by televising more than 100 hours weekly of public affairs coverage.
By 1999, our subscriber count had surpassed two million households in Pennsylvania, with network availability on 100 cable systems – more than three times the number of systems that carried us prior to our satellite delivery and public affairs programming initiatives.
PCN remains funded through a monthly fee paid by participating cable companies to cover network capital and operating costs, and receives no tax dollars. We are now recognized as the preeminent state public affairs network in the nation, and are one of the largest regional cable television news organizations in America.
Among our programming milestones, we are credited with the first live coverage of a Pennsylvania House hearing, the first telecast of a Pennsylvania appellate court hearing, the most extensive coverage of a state election in television history, and the first statewide telecast of a regular-season Pennsylvania high school sporting event.
Our support from the Pennsylvania cable television industry is strong and growing, as are the benefits we work each day to Pennsylvania and its people.