The Pennsylvania Cable Network was organized August 29, 1979, as a nonprofit corporation by Pennsylvania cable companies. Its purpose was to provide a cable television network as a public service for the distribution of educational programming by Pennsylvania institutions of higher learning under the leadership of Penn State University.
PCN marked the first use of cable television for distance education, and it was the first educational cable television network in the nation.
PCN was on the air before CNN, ESPN, MTV, TNT, USA Network, Fox News, MSNBC, and nearly all other nationally-distributed cable networks.
The educational program service, which was first known as PENNARAMA, offered college courses for credit, literacy training materials, and enrichment programs. In addition to Penn State, a number of institutions of higher learning participated in the service, including the University of Pittsburgh, Bloomsburg University and other universities of the State System of Higher Education, and several community colleges.
Until 1994, PCN was delivered to cable systems through a 796-mile microwave network.
PCN began to deliver its programming by satellite in June 1994. PCN was one of the first cable networks to use digital compression technology. This made the network available everywhere in Pennsylvania on a significantly more affordable basis.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS PROGRAMMING
In November 1993, PCN started providing public affairs programming in prime time, first on a limited basis, and gradually increased hours of coverage to 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., seven days a week, in late April 1995.
PCN’s public affairs programming provides televised coverage of public events in which citizens of Pennsylvania have a common interest and offers viewers the opportunity to watch their state government in action through hearings and floor proceedings of the General Assembly. PCN covers news conferences, speeches, panel discussions, and other events at which Pennsylvania public policy is debated, discussed, and decided. The network also covers events which give insight into historical, cultural, business, and educational aspects of the commonwealth.
Coverage is presented on a balanced basis and with an unfiltered point of view without editing, comment, or analysis, giving viewers a complement to traditional news media coverage.
On August 25, 1996, PCN ended its 17-year relationship with Penn State and took responsibility for the programming and operations of the network. PCN now offers 24 hours a day of programming to more than 3.2 million homes in Pennsylvania.
The network’s programming has expanded beyond coverage of the General Assembly to include the Pennsylvania State Farm Show (1994), tours of manufacturing facilities (1995), Gettysburg Battlewalks (1995), and PIAA High School Sports Championships (1997).
In addition to its main facility in Camp Hill, the network opened a bureau in Philadelphia in 2002 and in Pittsburgh in 2003.
To accommodate the network’s growth, a new building was built and the technical facility was converted to all-digital in 2003.
The network completed its three-year conversion to HDTV in May 2013.
PCN is a 501(c) nonprofit cable television network dedicated to educating, connecting, and celebrating Pennsylvania's past, present, and future through cable television and streaming platforms. PCN receives no state or federal tax dollars.