KERA in Dallas/Fort Worth is celebrating the station's 50th anniversary. The anniversary event, which will be held today, is meant to both celebrate and raise awareness around public media issues by showcasing how stations and the industry have changed over the last five decades. Deborah Johnson, Executive Vice President for Development and Marketing and Alan Melson, Director of Interactive, sat down with the SPI team to answer some questions about the event.
Tell us a little bit about the 50th anniversary event. It’s described as a multimedia fundraising event. What does that mean? Why was this format chosen?
We wanted it to be a true “event” – something that would be memorable and fitting for KERA’s milestone anniversary. When the opportunity arose to hold the event at the Wyly Theatre, a beautiful venue in Dallas’ Arts District that opened in 2008, we realized that the event’s scope could grow to encompass video and a variety of presenters to make it a true celebration of the station’s past as well as its bright future.
All of the speakers have played a role in helping build KERA’s reputation and visibility in the North Texas area, from Jim Lehrer and his early days on Newsroom to Cokie Roberts and Scott Simon’s strong work on NPR programs, helping strengthen that brand as an integral part of KERA’s programming in North Texas. We’ll also have Asleep At The Wheel as our special musical guest, as a nod to their long popularity with KERA audiences and within public television as a whole.
You mentioned KERA’s long history with North Texas. What were some of the most memorable events, stories, etc?
KERA has a rich history. The station's founder Ralph Rogers, a Dallas business leader, went on to become the chairman of PBS and helped to save funding for public broadcasting by appearing before a Congressional subcommittee during the Nixon administration. Rogers worked with KERA general manager Bob Wilson who brought a revolutionary local news program, Newsroom, to the air in 1970, and hired a young Dallas journalist named Jim Lehrer as host.
In 1974, KERA launched KERA-FM as the area's first National Public Radio affiliate. That same year, Wilson and head of TV programming Ron Devillier took a chance on a British comedy show, Monty Python's Flying Circus, which made its American debut in Dallas and went on to be a smash hit for public television stations across the U.S.
What are some of the expectations for this event?
In addition to the multimedia fundraising event, there are quite a few things going on around the anniversary, which have built community interest and engagement: