TLC, previously known as The Learning Channel, is an American cable television channel owned by Warner Brothers. It was first established in 1980 and initially focused on education and instructional programming. But did you know different branches of government collaborated for this channel?
TLC was founded by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA to broadcast school educational lessons to children.
The Origins of TLC – The Satellite Project
In the 1960s, the governors of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia requested special financial assistance from the federal government to help support economic and community development in the Appalachian region, which had historically lagged behind the rest of the country.
In response, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) was formed, with one of its initiatives to increase access to health and educational services.
The formation of ARC coincided with NASA’s efforts to broaden the use of its technologies for the public good. NASA began developing plans in 1972 with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to use its ATS-6 satellite to test the feasibility of broadcasting education and health information – what became the Education Satellite Communication Demonstration (ESCD), a massive education technology undertaking.
ARC proposed to participate in ESCD by using satellite technology to provide career education to teachers in the region. The proposal was approved, and the Appalachian Education Satellite Project (AESP) was established, with 15 receiver sites spread across eight states. The AESP collaborated with local education service agencies to create these sites where teachers could view these broadcast courses, which were then accepted for academic credit at 12 regional universities.
The ATS-6 changed orbit in 1975 to transmit educational content to India, and educational programming to Appalachia ceased until the satellite returned to US orbit in 1976.
When broadcasting resumed, 45 sites served as receivers, with some sharing their antenna with other local TV stations. Over 2800 people in the region were enrolled in satellite-delivered courses ranging from continuing education for teachers to EMT training and business management. (Source: Hack Education)
The Discovery Channel Acquisition
When Infotech and its sister company, the Financial News Network, filed for bankruptcy in 1991, Discovery Communications purchased a $32 million stake. Discovery also purchased ACSM’s stake, becoming the sole owner of The Learning Channel.
Hearst and ABC had offered more money for the channel but withdrew it when TCI, the cable provider that accounted for nearly a fourth of The Learning Channel’s subscribers, said it couldn’t guarantee that it would continue to carry the channel; TCI was one of the cable companies that owned a majority stake in Discovery Communications at the time.
After being acquired by Discovery, The Learning Channel quickly abandoned formal educational courseware in favor of other networks such as the for-profit Jones International University and its network Mind Extension University, later Knowledge TV – also later acquired by Discovery, opting for programming that could appeal to more affluent audiences and, thus, advertisers.
By the early 2000s, the network had abandoned entirely its Cable in the Classroom programming, as it gradually distanced itself from learning and started promoting itself instead as TLC. (Source: Hack Education)
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