Flint PBS station goes dark after 38 years

By Michael Piwowarski, photojournalist

It is the end of an era for Flint as a long-time public television station has ceased operations after nearly four decades on the air.

WCMZ-TV, channel 28, signed off at 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 23, after airing its last show, BBC’s Beyond 100 Days.

The station – which was owned by Central Michigan University and operated as a satellite station for their PBS affiliate, WCMU-TV in Mount Pleasant – was sold at the FCC spectrum auction the previous year for $14 million. The auction took place in order to free up spectrum space for wireless and mobile broadband services.

On its last programming day, WCMZ-TV aired footage in between shows of Michigan landmarks and on-screen text with a voiceover indicating the station’s FCC sale and impending sign-off. The station thanked viewers for their support before going off the air permanently.

A 2017 press release from CMU cited the availability of other PBS affiliates – WDCQ-TV in University Center, WKAR-TV in East Lansing and WTVS-TV in Detroit – to 99 percent of WCMZ-TV’s viewers.

In addition, WCMU stated in a Q&A on its website that WCMU-TV may still be received on cable and satellite providers, and its online streaming service WCMU Passport will also remain available, in order to continue receiving their programming. WCMU and its other satellite stations will remain on the air.

WCMZ-TV formerly operated as WFUM-TV, under ownership of the University of Michigan-Flint. Branded as Michigan Television, the station signed on for the first time in 1980 and aired several original shows as well as coverage of the Crim races in Flint.

In 2008, WFUM-TV took home nine regional Emmy awards for its programs from the Michigan chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

However, less than a year later, University of Michigan-Flint announced April 2009 that their television station would be discontinued, due to lack of membership support and increased expenses.

The board of trustees at Central Michigan University approved its purchase of WFUM-TV October 2009, and on January 15, 2010, the station transitioned to WCMU-TV’s programming and eventually changed its call sign to WCMZ-TV.

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