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WGCU Public Media Historical Timeline

WGCU Public Media and its predecessor, WSFP-TV/FM, have served Southwest Florida with the finest in public television and radio programming for 35 years. Originally a satellite operation licensed to the University of South Florida, WGCU Public Media became an independent entity in 1996 when the broadcast licenses were transferred to Florida Gulf Coast University, a new public university that was being built to serve the Southwest Florida region.

The stations’ call letters were changed to WGCU-TV/FM, and a new state-of-the-art broadcast facility was built as part of the new university’s campus. The building is named the Myra Janco Daniels Public Media Center, in honor of Ms. Daniels’ major gift to local arts programming.


Corporation for Public Broadcasting is created (resulting in NPR and PBS)


Advocacy to bring public broadcasting to Southwest Florida begins


Transmitter site approved by FCC


Florida Legislature appropriates funding for public broadcasting station to open on the University of South Florida campus in Fort Myers


Transmitter tower construction begins, and is completed in 1983.


  • WSFP-TV and WSFP-FM are licensed through USF.
  • WSFP-FM, the forerunner of WGCU FM, is established at the USF’s Fort Myers branch at Edison Community College and is live on air. The TV station doesn’t have studio or office space.
  • Radio Reading Service is on the air.


  • First Local TV series, “We the People,” debuts.
  • First fundraising telethon raises $40,000.
  • WSFP has 1,054 new members.


  • Transmission Tower is constructed near Babcock Ranch.
  • TV expands broadcast hours to air “Late Night America.”


  • James Heck becomes general manager.
  • Patricia Kemp hired as news director.
  • Ed Subkis hired as station manager.


First live auction benefits both TV and radio.


  • First full-time “Morning Edition” local host, Shoshana Edelberg, hired.
  • WSFP-TV becomes accredited by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and moves into the former WEVU-TV studios and offices in Bonita Springs.
  • WSFP-FM begins producing “Southwest News Summary.”


  • “On the Water” debuts on WSFP TV and is distributed throughout US and Canada. “Exploring Florida” also debuts on TV.
  • Valerie Alker hired as a full-time FM anchor, having been a reporter with WUSF news since 1987.


The station launches a website with tv schedules and program highlights.


The broadcasting licenses transfer from USF to Florida Gulf Coast University; call letters change to WGCU; offices move to FGCU campus. The university opens to students the following year.


  • “Arts Edition Live!” begins on WGCU FM with host Amy Tardif.
  • Station constructs tower to serve Marco Island/Southern Collier county, WMKO-FM 91.7.


WMKO-FM tower construction complete.


“Media Watch” begins. The monthly WGCU TV show brings in panels of journalists to talk about current events, with moderator Jeff Lindsay.


  • Kathleen Davey is general manager, Gene Craven is associate general manager, Art Karson is director of membership.
  • New broadcast transmitter installed, generator installed at transmitter site, installation of new studio transmitter microwave equipment on new tower shortly afterward.
  • First edition of “Expressions” magazine published in October; replaces monthly fold-out program guide.


  • Website makes it possible to listen, live, to WGCU-FM by computer.
  • Video conferencing services offered for member use.
  • Live, call-in talk show “Sound Off with Sasha” was added to radio lineup.
  • “Health Sense” TV program begins.
  • “Expressions” TV program launches with host Jeff Lindsay highlighting arts in Southwest Florida.


  • Celebrates 20 years of public broadcasting in SWFL.
  • WGCU TV begins archiving “In Focus” program on the web.
  • “Untold Stories” series begins with the first local program about Bonita Springs.
  • WGCU-FM operates at an effective radiated power of 100,000 watts, the legal maximum for FM stations; WMKO-FM operates at 25,000 watts.


  • Joe Maggio is director of engineering.
  • New digital master control room created to handle high definition digital and analog channels simultaneously.
  • High definition (HD) programs begin airing on WGCU PBS. WGCU adds PBS KIDS, Florida Knowledge Network and WGCU standard digital channels.
  • Local call-in radio show, “Gulf Coast Live!” starts. Mike Kiniry is the first producer. Kiniry is also local host of “All Things Considered” (until 2006, when he moves to “Morning Edition” until 2011).
  • “Health Sense,” locally-produced from 2002, is airing on 146 other PBS stations.
  • Transmission Tower collapses, knocking WMKO off air on July 12. Fire starts at the 80-foot level of the tower where a welding crew was attempting to add support and the 520-foot structure came down. No one was injured, but the antenna was destroyed. The tower also held antennas for area cell phones and the US Coast Guard.
  • September: Hurricane Charley hits; scheduled programming is replaced with full-time news coverage of the storm aimed at broadcast area; reporters go to the streets to cover the natural disaster through interviews and experience.
  • Mitchell Haley promoted to associate general manager.
  • WGCU begins accepting donations of cars, trucks, motor homes and boats.
  • Director of Donor Development is Christine Hause.


  • Broadcast tower is repaired after suffering hurricane damage, plus maintenance done to extend tower life. New, 500-foot radio tower completed in October (after July 2004 fire). All construction and equipment in place for WMKO, completely back on air.   
  • WGCU-FM serves as emergency alert system for SWFL for Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Desoto and Glades.
  • Regional growth places Fort Myers/Naples/Marco area as the 64th largest radio market in the U.S., according to Arbitron.
  • Business supporters contribute over $1 million during 2004-2005.


  • Glenn Sabatka of WGCU Radio Reading Service receives award for Public Citizen of the Year from National Association of Social Workers, SWFL unit of the Florida chapter.
  • Reporter/host Amy Tardif becomes FM station manager/news director.


  • Transition to new server-based digital broadcast system.
  • Luis Hernandez becomes new assistant news director.
  • Planned giving society created: Gulf Coast Encore Society.
  • Director of Engineering Joe Maggio retires.


  • Connect! Innovation, a multimedia project designed for TV, radio, magazine and website, launches.
  • WGCU-FM brings HD radio to listeners.
  • FCC mandates that all TV broadcasts stop using analog technology and switch to digital (clearer sound, crisper image).
  • WGCU-FM adjusted formats, moving classical music to 24/7 HD radio and maintaining news, info and entertainment on main FM channel.
  • General Manager Kathleen Davey retires in October; Rick Johnson becomes new GM in November.


  • Digital technology allows for three additional content streams: PBS WORLD, with PBS Create and Encore sharing a channel.
  • John Davis joins WGCU news team as a reporter and producer.
  • The shared Florida Knowledge Network and the Florida Channel, converts to digital.
  • WGCU logo is rebranded to include the wave (to reflect the forward movement of the station, as well as flowing water in SWFL.
  • WGCU studio goes completely digital in videography/photography.
  • Director of Donor Development Linda Guerrine hired.


  • Diversity Advisory Group formed.
  • Barbara Linstrom becomes executive producer.
  • WGCU Public Broadcasting becomes known as WGCU Public Media to include magazine, website and other media streams.
  • Feed Public Radio…Feed a Family food donation promotion on WGCU FM launches in partnership with the local Harry Chapin Food Bank.
  • “FCGU Sports Report” covers basketball in a community partnership with Waterman Broadcasting (airing on BAC7 and NBC’s News Now channel).
  • Grant from U.S. Department of Commerce replaces TV production equipment with newer, better (HD) cameras and associated equipment ($433,928 grant = half of price tag to completely replace). Necessary?
  • Dan Nelson hired as director of development.
  • “Your Voice” is introduced: combining TV, radio, the Web and magazine to examine issues.


  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Digital Distribution Fund awards WGCU $575,171 to move the antenna to the top of the broadcast tower and upgrade the transmitter to result in a stronger signal (about 75% of total project cost).
  • Awarded $43,555 by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Digital Radio Conversion to quadruple power of HD radio signal by installing high-gain transmission antenna for the WGCU HD-1 news and information and WGCU HD-2 classical music service (to alleviate signal problems some listeners were experiencing the past few years).
  • Rick Scott vetoes all funding for Florida’s public media radio and TV stations. TV funding is restored in 2012 at a reduced level. Radio funding restored in 2013.
  • Florida PBS LearningMedia (comprehensive, online digital learning tool) available in every classroom and home in Florida with internet to help reimagine classroom learning, in collaboration with other Florida Public Media stations.


  • “Curious Kids” initiative begins with a TV program, website and an exhbit at the Children’s Museum of Naples.
  • Kimberly Woodle hired as director of development.
  • WGCU TV Production “Into the Wild: Edison, Ford & Friends” is distributed to 150 public television stations.
  • WGCU Leadership Circle forms, serving major donors.
  • “Makers: Women Who Make Southwest Florida” (TV, radio, web and print project) begins and is held annually through 2016.


  • WGCU celebrates 30 years.
  • WGCU-TV Production “Silver King” is distributed to 172 public television stations.
  • AAA (adult-album-alternative) music format available exclusively on WGCU HD radio 90.1-2, Xponential.
  • “Florida Explorer” program launches, highlighting travel throughout southwest Florida and beyond – nature, manmade, people, events that make SWFL special.
  • New director of engineering is Brain Zittlau.
  • WGCU Legacy Society, a club with donors of over 20 years, begins.
  • Martha Speaks Reading Buddies Program held at Westside (Hendry) and Seagate elementary (Collier).


  • WGCU produces “Pink Gold Rush,” a one hour, nationally distributed, documentary on the rise and decline of the shrimping industry in Southwest Florida.
  • Glenn Sabatka retires as Radio Reading Service manager after 30 years.
  • “All Things Considered” host Valerie Alker retires after 22 years.
  • Director of Community Funding Terry Brennen retires after almost 14 years.
  • WGCU and sister stations in Florida found the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network to stay on air and keep residents informed during emergencies such as hurricanes.
  • Fund Our Future begins (as a 10-year capital campaign with a $30,000,000 goal) to provide tangible capital needs and endowments for future needs.
  • WGCU-FM available on iTunes Radio.
  • Electronic newsletter begins twice a month through email.
  • WGCU phone app debuts.


  • Jessica Meszaros hired as local host of “All Things Considered.”
  • Director of Engineering Kevin Trueblood hired.
  • “Green Minutes” series provides information about making your home more efficient; one airs each month until Earth Day (six total).
  • Patricia Sullivan-Schrenk issues challenge (to match every donation up to $100,000), to upgrade transmission equipment, acquire state-of-the-art newsroom software and automation equipment and upgrade “Gulf Coast Live!” studio.
  • The documentary “WWII Vets: Stories of Service” is produced.


  • WGCU Passport streaming service introduced as a new member benefit.
  • Patrick and Rosalie Lasala television wing named (in honor of estate plans, unveiled in April).
  • New staff members hired to enhance social media/digital presence of WGCU.
  • Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation donates to expand “Gulf Coast Live” radio show with $260,000 donation.
  • Jim and Sharon Hale provide a significant gift in support of radio production and engineering needs.
  • Julie Glenn becomes part of the WGCU news team and heads expansion of Gulf Coast Live from once a week to four shows a week.
  • Myra Janco Daniels Public Media Center named in honor of Daniels’ $3 million gift to support arts programming on WGCU TV.

The documentary “Korean Vets: Stories of Service” is produced.


  • PBS KIDS gets own 24/7 channel.
  • WGCU joins Giving Tuesday fundraising efforts, designating PBS KIDS as beneficiary. In the next four years, donors help raise $76,844.
  • “Curious Gulf Coast” (community-driven reporting project on TV and digital) launched, to answer viewers’ submitted questions about Southwest Florida.
  • Mike Kiniry returns to WGCU news team after a six-year stint at jobs outside of public media.
  • News Director Amy Tardif leaves WGCU after 25 years to direct “StoryCorps” production facility in Chicago.
  • Julie Glenn becomes news director.
  • The documentary “Vietnam Vets: Stories of Service” is produced.
  • “Twisted Strings” outdoor concert event debuts and is held annually for three years.
  • Hurricane Irma forced staff into round the clock for four days, resulting in award-winning coverage and recognition as station of the year in 2018.


  • WGCU holds first “Be My Neighbor Day” for kids and families, featuring PBS characters and community partners on station grounds.
  • Amy Shumaker joins WGCU as Associate General Manager for Content.
  • “Grape Minds: The Culture and Context of Wine” podcast with Julie Glenn and Gina Birch launches in March
  • Andrea Perdomo joins WGCU news team as a general assignment reporter.
  • In a collaboration with Gulfshore Life magazine, program and panel discussion of “Civil Discourse in a Polarized Society” presented.
  • “Three Song Stories: Biography Through Music” podcast with Mike Kiniry launches in April.
  • Last edition of “Expressions” magazine is printed in June.
  • The documentary “Gulf War Vets: Stories of Service” is produced.
  • Ranks #1 public television station in the nation with an 84% reach into SWFL community.


  • Move to Include initiative is launched with five other stations nationwide to highlight abilities rather than disabilities among people. Besides airing relevant documentaries, WGCU staff held a digital storytelling workshop with young people in Best Buddies of Southwest Florida.
  • Streaming of WGCU PBS and PBS KIDS begins on YouTube.
  • WGCU and Dr. Jerry Jackson celebrate 20 years of Jackson’s radio program, With the Wild Things.
  • WGCU named Business of the Year by the Fort Myers News-Press.
  • “Family Pictures USA – Southwest Florida” premieres nationally on PBS with WGCU as co-producing station along with North Carolina and Detroit.
  • Descriptive video capability for PBS shows that offer the service is available on WGCU.
  • Pamela Garvey hired as associate general manager for development and community relations.
  • “New En Espanol” (Noticias) begins serving Spanish-speaking resident and is shared via the WGCU YouTube channel and Radio Consciencias channel in Immokalee.
  • WGCU refreshes the overall brand to match PBS national branding.
  • Cary Barbor hired as All Things Considered host.
  • Significant upgrades for transmission to both towers increasing our strength to reach all or parts of 12 counties in south and Southwest Florida.


  • March 16: Coronavirus D-day. All WGCU staff began working from home following a state mandate in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including broadcasting news reports and producing Gulf Coast Life. In response to students in elementary through high school being sent home to learn remotely, WGCU provides curriculum through At-Home Learning with resources also through PBS LearningMedia. In June, WGCU collaborates with The News-Press/Naples Daily News to produce SWFL Townhall: 100 Days of Coronavirus.
  • The PECO-funded $3.7 million tower and transmission facility rebuild begins to strengthen the signal and extend WGCU’s coverage area into 10 counties in SWFL.  
  • In collaboration with The News-Press/Naples Daily News, WGCU produces several town hall broadcast productions on radio, TV and social media, to discuss the status and impacts of the novel coronavirus.
  • Livestream of WGCU PBS available on 24/7.

Hires Environmental Reporter for Valerie Vande Panne