In 1952, following a four-year-long freeze on awarding station licenses, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revised its channel allocation table and reserved 242 frequencies, including channel 7 in Jacksonville, for noncommercial educational use. In Jacksonville, podiatrist Dr. Heywood Dowling launched a campaign to bring educational television to the First Coast region. While many other public stations at the time were affiliated with universities, Dowling proposed that Jacksonville’s station be owned and funded by the community. Civic leaders embraced the concept, and after years of fundraising, the FCC issued a construction permit for channel 7 on February 28, 1957.
WJCT television first went on the air on September 10, 1958. Its first broadcast was a report by then-Florida governor LeRoy Collins on educational television. As Channel 7 initially had no production facility of its own, it used the studios of the city’s two commercial stations, WMBR-TV (channel 4, now WJXT) and WFGA-TV (channel 12, now WTLV). It was Florida’s second public television station, following time-sharing outlets WTHS-TV and WPBT in Miami. Its service area extended past Jacksonville to Live Oak, St. Augustine, and Palatka, Florida, and Folkston, Georgia. Its first month was dedicated to national programs from National Educational Television.
WJCT added a radio station, WJCT-FM, in 1972. Originally on air under the name “Stereo 90”, WJCT-FM’s broadcasting covered music, fine arts, news, and public affairs. In October 1973, WJCT produced its first television and radio simulcast of a concert by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
In 2014, WJCT spearheaded the Digital Convergence Alliance Network Operations Center (DCA-NOC), a central master control operation funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This was the first network operations center developed in a partnership of 11 public broadcasting companies.