TVO Turns 50!

On September 27, 1970, TVOntario (TVO) came on to the airwaves in Ontario for the first time. That moment changed local television in Ontario forever. As a kid of the 1980s, a lot of educational programming my parents made my sister and I watch came from TVO (and CBC). Considering this effort to launch this station was an untried, untested idea, I think it is safe to say TVO has been a success and flourished over the five decades it has been on the air.

This article on TVO has a good summary of its humble start.

I think everyone has watched something on TVO at least once in their lives. As a child who grew up watching children’s programming – hello Polkaroo and Polka Dot Door! – now an adult, I find my interest in TVO programming even stronger than when I grew up. It is one of my go-to stations on the digital dial.

Consider the world of public and local broadcasting. There are behemoths like the BBC as the gold standard of public broadcasting, same with PBS in the United States, and WNED for the Toronto folks who are familiar with the Buffalo-based station that broadcasts here. In Canada, we have CBC but they have been in decline for so long figuring out how to redefine itself.

TVO is closer to the BBC and PBS than it is the CBC. In my humble opinion, TVO is a far better public broadcaster than the national broadcaster. It has a different mandate that only serves Ontario – “[using] electronic and associated media to provide educational opportunities for all people in Ontario” – but the world-class broadcasting that comes from the station is unmatched in Canada.

A lot of that comes from the flagship show, The Agenda with Steve Paikin. Historically, there was Saturday Night at the Movies, Mister Rogers Neighbourhood, Polka Dot Door, The Kids of Degrassi Street, The Electric Company, and so much more.

In a world of “spin” and unsubstantiated untruths, straight-faced, unbiased programming that presents balanced and unique coverage to counteract the rising tide of problematic programming, 50 years on, I think public broadcasting is needed more than ever to balance the programming available on conventional television. Television needs more TVO!

Here is to another 50 years and more for TVO, congratulations!

What are your fondest memories of TVO or public broadcasting? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of

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