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WNPT (Nashville Public Television), channel 8, is a PBS outlet in Nashville, Tennesseemarker that is operated by a community-funded, non-profit organization known as Nashville Public Television.


The station signed on the air on September 10, 1962, as WDCN (for Davidson County Nashville), on channel 2. It is Tennessee's second-oldest public television station, behind WKNO-TVmarker in Memphismarker, established six years earlier. It was originally licensed to the Nashville school board, which became an arm of the metropolitan government when Nashville and Davidson Countymarker merged in 1963. Like most eventual PBS affiliates, WDCN was mainly established to serve area schoolchildren with educational programming. Beginning in 1967, it became short-spaced to the public television outlet for the East Tennessee region, WSJK-TVmarker, but since WDCN probably broadcast at a lower amount of power than the latter station (as WDCN had a smaller territory to cover), signal interference never became a serious problem.

In the early 1970s, WDCN agreed to swap channels with ABC affiliate WSIX-TV, which was seeking a stronger signal. On December 11, 1973, WSIX changed its calls to WNGE-TV (now WKRN-TVmarker) and moved to channel 2, while WDCN moved to channel 8. This was only the third time in U.S. television history that the FCC allowed two established stations to exchange frequencies; an almost identical trade occurred in New Orleansmarker three years earlier in 1970, also involving the ABCmarker and PBSmarker stations. Apparently the proceeds from the exchange of channel positions with WSIX/WNGE owners General Electric enabled WDCN to build studios in 1976 near the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in south Nashville. According to station officials, the present WKRN also maintains WNPT's transmitter and antenna as part of the 1973 arrangement. Originally, the station broadcast from a building located near Belmont College (now Belmont Universitymarker) on 15th and Compton Avenues, a facility shared with WSM-TV (now WSMVmarker) until 1966; the Metropolitan Nashville government now uses the site for its emergency communications center.

Political and funding issues prompted the Metro Nashville government to begin proceedings in the late 1990s to relinquish WDCN's license to a community board. Some local residents welcomed the change, since they believed that the school board's operation of the station inhibited WDCN from broadcasting PBS programs reputed to be even mildly controversial (even though Nashville itself is very liberal by Southern standards, the suburbs and adjacent rural areas are quite conservative, especially on social issues), including some programs that were broadcast on practically all PBS stations in markets as big or smaller than Nashville.

Whatever the motivation, WDCN would become the last public television station in the state to be emancipated from a governmental body. WKNO had never been publicly operated, and the state board of education released the remaining stations in the state to community groups back in 1984. Metro formally released WDCN in 2000 to a new board known as "Nashville Public Television." The new board changed the station's calls to WNPT. However, the station almost never refers to its call letters or channel number on the air, usually calling itself "Nashville Public Television."

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