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WCTE CEO extols the virtues of PBS
WCTE-Becky Magura.jpg
Becky Magura, president and CEO of WCTE-Upper Cumberland PBS, spoke to Noon Rotary on Thursday. - photo by Lacy Garrison

Perhaps you watch “Antiques Roadshow” or “Independent Lens” faithfully. Maybe your child is obsessed with “Caillou” or “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” These popular shows are just a few favorites broadcast on WCTE-Upper Cumberland PBS.

In fact, WCTE is one of our area’s principal conduits of PBS programming, but is also in tune with the people it serves. Under the leadership of president and CEO Becky Magura since 2006, WCTE has been on the road to bring to public television the real-life stories of our communities and the rich and instructive history of the region.  

“Our purpose is to raise a generation of citizens, not a generation consumers,” said Magura to the Rotarians on Thursday afternoon. “That’s why we are noncommercial, nonviolent and educational.”

According to Magura, WCTE has four channels:

• WCTE-DT - Main WCTE programming / PBS (Channel 22.1)

• World (Channel 22.2)

• Create (Channel 22.3)

• WCTE- PBS Kids (Channel 22.4)

Magura went on to discuss the connections WCTE has with McMinnville, recognizing Mike Galligan as the next chair on WCTE’s Board of Trustees, along with Ben Newman, who is currently on their Community Advisory Board. She also explained how McMinnville is home to Litewire, which should bring pride.

“Our signal comes out of McMinnville and is our master control to serve broadcast stations all across the country,” said Magura. “There are only three joint master controls in the country – New York State, Jacksonville, Fla. and one here.”

After nearly 40 years with WCTE-Upper Cumberland, Magura shared some highlights of her career, including getting to meet Mr. Fred Rogers.

“The day I met him, Mr. Rogers was speaking to a small group of people and he set down and played this little piece on the piano,” recalled Magura. “He said, ‘you know, I probably haven’t played that song since I was 6 years old’ and it was a simple, beautiful song, but what he said next was ‘just goes to show you that what you learn as a child, you never forget.’ That’s why we need to get children something good to watch on TV, a safe neighborhood to go to.”

Magura also touched on how taxpayer funding plays a part in supporting WCTE, but the organization is mostly dependent on voluntary financial support from the private sector — individuals, nonprofit foundations and for-profit corporations.

“The federal government invests in public broadcasting, both radio and TV, across the country equals in federal appropriations to be $1.35 a citizen annually,” said Magura. “You can’t buy a little bag of Cheez-It for $1.35 a citizen.” 

Magura explained federal money isn’t carved up equally among the 300 other stations, but that WCTE is very dependent on the portion it does get. She encourages anyone who can to support WCTE’s annual membership drive, along with its 40th anniversary campaign.

Asked Rotarian Michael Griffith, “The big question locally is – is there room for another broadcast in our community for Cumberland Caverns Live here in Warren County? Is there room for those shows to be broadcast through WCTE?”

Answered Magura, “I don’t know whether PBS would because Bluegrass Underground is a very established commodity with them now … whether or not they would add a second show from a cave. It would have to be really different I think because it could be confusing to viewers.”

Magura did mention looking into other things WCTE could do with the city of McMinnville.