Interviewee: Dr. J. Wayne Reitz
B: This is an interview with Dr. J. Wayne Reitz on WUFT history. Dr. Reitz, could you
please give us your recollection on the beginnings of Channel 5, WUFT?
R: May I ask you first of all, what was the year it started broadcasting?
R: O.K. When I became president on April 1, 1955, it was not long thereafter when John
Allen, who was the executive vice president, mentioned that we should start thinking about
a T.V. station for the university. I told him that I thought it was a good idea and for him to
pursue it. This he did very effectively and very diligently. First we looked for a location,
which we decided would be in the stadium, as a part of the journalism school. Then, of
course, the problem was to get the license and the funding. I do not remember the details,
but John, as I recall, did a very effective job in bringing it to fruition. Our first broadcast was
B: It appears that at the beginning, both under your administration and Dr. Miller's, the
university did not seem to be making an all-out effort to obtain Channel 5 and put the
station on the air.
R: Well, this I do not recollect. I do not know about Dr. Miller's administration at all, but I
know John Allen brought it up and I said, let's move. Maybe we did not move as fast as
some people thought we should, I do not know. But if we did not, it was probably because
of the necessary funding or the possibility of getting a channel assigned and a permit in a
B: When Channel 5 went on the air, programming plans included college-level credit
courses broadcast on WUFT. What changed that original concept, do you have any idea?
R: I think it was just a plain case of demand and the lack of interest on the part of the
professorial staff and perhaps students. At the time we started broadcasting, there was a
great national movement afoot thinking that educational television was just going to be the
solution to the shortage of university professors. The Ford Foundation, for example, set up
that national T.V. broadcasting unit out of Purdue University that covered all of the Midwest.
They were giving courses by television. Our own John Baxter in chemistry here was
chosen and financed by the Ford Foundation to develop a national beginning course in
chemistry, which he broadcasted every morning for a year. There was another person
nationally, I forget where he was, but chosen to do the same thing in a physics course. So
we had nationally running the chemistry course and the physics course. Many universities
set up methods whereby students could listen to them and take examinations and get
credit. John Baxter, as a result of this effort, spent year in Brazil for the Ford Foundation
and also went to India. There was a great surge. Governor LeRoy Collins thought that
educational television was going to be the solution to a lot of our teaching problems. But
with the passage of time, it just sort of faded away. It is just one of those things--I do not
know if it has ever been carefully analyzed as to why that happened, but it happened. The
programming of WUFT is quite different than it was in its beginning.
B: Looking at the original concepts of WUFT and educational television, did you think that
WUFT was meeting the role laid down by the Board of Control when they authorized
University of Florida Television?
R: Frankly, I do not recall just what the role was that was laid down by the Board. It was
probably one, though, that we wanted to make as great a use of it as possible as an
instructional device. That was probably inherent in it, and probably the most motivating
force in our getting state funds to the extent that we were able to get them. If that was the
chief function as laid down by the Board, then the program has changed tremendously.
B: You mentioned funding. Was funding of WUFT a problem for you as university
president? And did some of the funding come from other than regular budgeting, such as
budget items for other departments, or discretionary funds?
R: In those days, budgeting and getting funds was a difficult proposition regardless, but
particularly for something that was new. I presume that we got some state funds, possibly
we had some allocated through our discretionary funds, and I believe we also got some
funding from the Ford Foundation in the initial phases--particularly for equipment. This I am
not sure of.
B: As an educator, do you think that WUFT could better serve the needs of the Florida
public and university during the early period and now? And if so, how?
R: When you consider the way it has evolved and the shift away from direct
instruction--which was contemplated--I think it is now more responsive to the general
wishes, desires, and market demand of the listening public than was the original design. I
do not listen to it a great deal, but I listen to public television a great deal more than any
other station, and it seems to me that WUFT has done a good job of meeting the needs of
the people from what you might call a general education--a general extension-type of
function--a service function of the university to the general public, rather than being an
instructional arm to students. Perhaps the latter--being an instructional arm to
students--could be given some further review here after twenty-five years to see if we may
have neglected an opportunity. I do not know. I know that there has been this transition
and I know that the general public supports it. In terms of high-quality programming where
you do not have to put up with a lot of advertising--most of advertising is just such
nonsense anyway--people appreciate and like this type of programming. It is a laudable
function that the university is rendering. The only thing I would suggest is to take another
look at it as an instructional factor to undergraduate and graduate students.
B: Along that line, do you think that WUFT should reinstate high school or college-credit
courses; or operate more in competition with commercial stations in such areas as news?
R: I think, as I indicated a moment ago, that we ought take another look at the validity of it
as an instructional medium. From the standpoint of news, other than to let journalism
students get some practice, I would just as soon take my news someplace else. I frankly
do not think that this is a great contribution. I do not see any point in WUFT competing with
the news media insofar as news items are concerned, except as it might apply to university
B: In reading the material in the archives, it appears that there was much support for the
concept of E.T.V. among the state's broadcasters. Do you think this is true, or did some of
the broadcasters attempt to shoot down E.T.V.?
R: I just do not know. I have no feeling insofar as that question is concerned.
B: Was the Florida Educational Television Commission active in the beginning of WUFT?
And in what way and what happened to the Commission?
R: Here again, I do not recall. I did not even know that we had a commission. As to
whether it was an influential body, John Allen could have answered that if he were still
B: Do you think that WUFT should produce more local programs of an educational nature
for distribution to other state stations, since that was part of the original purpose as outlined
by the Board of Control? Or has the need for in-state production of programming
R: Frankly, I do not know how much in the way of producing local programs that WUFT is
now involved in. I think this should have been a continuing function and I would assume
that it has been, providing certain educational programs of the adult extension type. From
the standpoint of instruction, I think this needs to be reviewed to see if there is an
opportunity for networking certain types of instructional programs for community
colleges--and maybe even high schools--wherein the University of Florida could render a
service. Incidentally, in speaking of the early purpose of WUFT as annunciated by the
Board of Control, there was, in addition to using it as an instructional medium, the idea that
it would be a training ground for our students in journalism. I do not think I mentioned that.
That is, of course, a continuing part and function of a state university where there is a
journalism school--to use the T.V. station as an opportunity for students.
B: Ray Weimer said one of the problems of putting Channel 5 on the air--and I am
paraphrasing here--was that the entire concept of E.T.V. was a new ballgame and that
nobody knew the rules. Do you agree?
R: Well, I guess you could say that nobody knew the rules because we did not have any to
speak of. I think in terms of concepts, there was a considerable amount of uniformity--as a
training device for students, as an educational medium, as an opportunity to get
high-quality programs broadcasted to the citizenry without their having to be confronted
with a lot of advertising. I think oftentimes we do not realize just how acceptable
educational television is, for the simple reason that you do not have advertising. But, of
course, basically it is the quality of the programs that people enjoy and
appreciate--educational lectures, music, etc.--that is so superior to what we normally find
on regular commercial television.
B: Prior to your administration, it was suggested by President Miller that WRUF attempt to
get the license for Channel 5 and operate the station as a commercial station. Did any
thought of this carry over to your administration?
R: Not that I recall. I recall that John Allen's philosophy and position was that this was to
be a pure and simple educational television station, and there was to be no
commercialization of it whatsoever.
B: If you had it to do all over again, what would you do differently concerning Channel 5?
R: Frankly, as I have observed Channel 5 in its evolution, I do not recall anything I would
have done differently, except possibly that we should have moved more quickly. We may
well have moved as fast as we could under budgetary and licensing restrictions. If you look
at the evolution, I think it has evolved appropriately and in response to the will and wishes
of the people. But, as I said, we need to take another look at its role, particularly from the
standpoint of its being an instructional medium. I am not saying that it should move into
that direction, but I think that we ought to look at this to see about the possibility.
B: Who would you suggest to do this review and look at the situation as far as educational
programming is concerned?
R: I think the president of the university, perhaps along with the commissioner of
education, might sit down and appoint a high-level committee of five good educators to look
into this matter. To do so, I would assume they would have to get a little funding.