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Perspective | UNC-TV supports public with media access for all

Welcome to our monthly feature on EducationNC called the NC STEM ScoreCard, written in partnership with the NC Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center (SMT) and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The previous edition of the STEM ScoreCard featuring the National Board Certification can be found here.

The goal of the NC STEM ScoreCard is to build broader awareness of how P-20 STEM* education is being nurtured across North Carolina and the impact on the well-being of our citizens and state. Three key questions framing this goal are: 

  1. In what ways does the state directly invest in programming and innovations that promote STEM learning?
  2. In what ways are philanthropies and others supporting STEM education and learning in North Carolina?
  3. What measurable impacts are North Carolina realizing from these strategic investments?

*STEM here is an acronym for Strategies That Engage Minds

Strategic Investment in programs that increase the quality and impact of STEM education in North Carolina is a central focus of the NC STEM ScoreCard. One of those investments is in UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina.

The mission of UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina is to contribute to the greater good by connecting North Carolinians to each other, the world and endless possibilities. The vision is to be a vital, indispensable service and partner to all North Carolinians.

The history of UNC-TV

UNC-TV was founded on Jan. 8, 1955 as an educational television station for North Carolina. What started as WUNC-TV Channel 4 on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has grown into UNC-TV, a statewide public television network with 12 transmitting stations providing four channels of digital television services reaching all 100 counties of North Carolina and reaching into four surrounding states.

Through its unique partnership of public investment and private support, the statewide network includes in-person engagement, digital-first social and online content delivery, and four over-the-air channels — UNC-TV PBS & More, the North Carolina Channel, Rootle 24/7 PBS Kids, and the Explorer Channel. Its transformational events and content spark curiosity and wonder for all North Carolinians. Additionally, UNC-TV serves as the backbone for North Carolina’s state’s emergency services. 

Click here to read the booklet UNC-TV Celebrates 50 Years of Life-changing Television.

General overview

Through robust multi-platform distribution including four broadcast channels, streaming, UNC-TV websites, and social media, significant numbers of STEM programs and resources are freely accessible to and being heavily used by teachers, students, schools, adults, and families for formal and guided learning and for general interest viewing. 

Children’s series with STEM content include: The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Curious George, Cyberchase, Dinosaur Train, Let’s Go Luna!, Nature Cat, Peg + Cat, Ready Jet Go!, SciGirls, Sesame Street, Sid the Science Kid, Splash and Bubbles, Super Why!, Wild Kratts, Word Girl, and Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum

General audience science/STEM series include: Sci NC, Exploring North Carolina, Carolina Outdoor Journal, Africa’s Great Civilizations, American Experience, The Gene: An Intimate History, History Detectives, The History of Science, Life on Fire, Nature, and NOVA.

UNC TV Public Media NC connects with North Carolinians three ways

As North Carolina’s statewide PBS network serving the country’s third-largest public media market, UNC-TV educates, informs, entertains, and inspires its statewide audience on-air, online, and in-person.

In person | Engagement

UNC-TV hosts and partners on more than 100 statewide events reaching more than 165,000 people annually. Events include workshops, roundtables, screenings, community engagement, and conferences. Participants include teachers, childcare providers, children and families, veterans, donors, and residents across the state.

Online | Digital

UNC-TV shares our state’s stories via their website as well as digital and social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, visitors to the website, and regular category-specific emails.

Public Safety: UNC-TV towers support 40+ federal, state and local agencies communications systems. By distributing vital emergency information accessible via various broadcast, media and digital platforms, UNC-TV is a crucial link between public officials and more than 10 million North Carolina residents before, during and after emergency situations.

Emergency livestreams are available on-air and online on the UNC-TV and the Department of Public Safety websites. Recently, UNC-TV was selected as the only media organization permitted in the North Carolina Emergency Operations Center Media room as they limit on-site personnel and will continue to share its feed with all other media organizations for distribution.  

Source of timely and reliable information

UNC-TV’s content and production crews have been working on the development and distribution of special COVID-19 virus-related updates including but not limited to: 

  • Focus On: Coronavirus — This new series features regular interviews with state representatives and health officials regarding the state’s response to the virus and the latest health and safety guidelines. Recent episodes featured including Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Dr. Mandy Cohen, Governor Roy Cooper, North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis and UNC System Interim President, Dr, Bill Roper.
  • UNC-TV is also actively sharing current conditions and updates at @publicmedianc on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  

Safe haven for children as an educational resource

UNC-TV, in partnership with North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction, is offering robust multi-platform distance learning resources to address the overwhelming educational needs of students and caregivers while in-person instruction has been disrupted by COVID-19. Leveraging UNC-TV’s broadcast and internet capabilities, expertise, and relationships, this partnership is aiming to address the needs of students of all ages and institute both PBS-provided tools and customized local content. 

  • At-home learning broadcast: Each weekday, two blocks of programs on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Channel will serve students: fourth through eighth grade, from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., and ninth through 12th grade, from 1p.m. – 6 p.m. (actual times may vary, please check the weekly schedule online here). For children pre-K-third grade, Rootle, UNC-TV’s 24/7 PBS KIDS channel, will continue providing trusted programs providing education and entertainment in a safe haven for youngsters. In addition to its over-the-air channel, Rootle can be streamed live here. Plus, the UNC-TV channel offers a seven-hour block of children’s programs weekdays, starting at 6:30 a.m.
  • Bright by text: Parents and caregivers can text CONNECT to 274448 for additional quality information and educational resources delivered straight to their phones.
  • UNC-TV interactive science lessons: With funding from GSK, the UNC-TV Science team produces multi-platform content including interactive, fully aligned lesson plans adaptable for use in the classroom or home schools. These lessons are complete with opportunities for note-taking, multiple choice online quizzes, and a final project that a student can do with a parent/teacher or on his/her/their own. Plans are available here.

A Focus on UNC-TV digital resources for teachers, parents, and students

PBS LearningMedia provides thousands of classroom-ready, curriculum-targeted digital resources. STEM resources, which include contextualized video, instructional interactive tools, images, audio, print and lesson plans, are available free for pre-K-12 educators, parents, caregivers and students. PBS LearningMedia currently offers: 5,778 science resources, 2,159 engineering and technology resources, and 1,571 math resources along with other subject areas. 

UNC-TV Science: With generous support and funding from GSK, the UNC-TV Science team covers a broad array of STEM topics, bringing science out of the labs of North Carolina’s colleges and universities, government agencies, and private industries and into everyday life. Making science relevant inspires the next generation of innovators. UNC-TV reaches them through a robust slate of locally produced content including:

  • Sci NC broadcast programs that connect North Carolinians to the science happening across the state, striving to connect how this research will help the average North Carolinian.
  • Digital content on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram that meets STEM-hungry audiences where they are. 
  • A growing collection of blended lessons designed for K-12 educators and students. Completely free and specifically aligned to NCES standards, this curriculum combines hands-on, project-based activities with interactive components including animated glossaries, video segments with formative quizzes, and summative assessments that turn students into producers. Available on PBS Learning Media.

UNC-TV’s locally produced content reached 4.64 million viewers in less than 18 months via content initiatives including 44 feature stories, 682 social media posts, 52 web videos, 30 digital learning components and 17 live local and national presentations.

Digital Innovators are classroom change makers: educators whose fresh ideas open new worlds for their students, and whose bold approach to teaching creates a joyful learning environment.

PBS TeacherLine offers courses that can inspire, educate, and reinvigorate teaching strategies. PBS TeacherLine offers 15, 30, or 45 hour courses that are facilitated by content experts and master teachers (including preschool, child care educators, and parents) that immerse teachers in a collaborative, online environment with peers to learn about science teaching, teaching reading and more.

PBS Teachers Lounge is a virtual gathering place where educators can get fresh ideas, interact with peers, and discover innovative learning tools.

StudentsPrograms in health, science, mathematics and the arts, including the popular program, Wild Kratts, which joins the adventures of Chris and Martin Kratt as they encounter incredible wild animals, combining science education with fun and adventure as the duo travels to animal habitats around the globe.


As an important equalizing agent, UNC-TV provides free, easily accessible, quality educational and entertaining programming, robust engagement opportunities, and resilient and reliable disaster communication.

UNC-TV’s four broadcast channels deliver 35,040 hours of trusted content from

  • UNC-TV, PBS, and more, much of which are STEM-related, including popular series Nature, Nova, and Sci NC. UNC-TV’s services cost just over $1.00 per North Carolina citizen per year. 
  • UNC-TV is part of North Carolina’s emergency communications infrastructure, partnering with state and local public safety agencies. 
  • In 2019, UNC-TV provided 3,447 hours of original programming including North Carolina Weekend, MUSE, Sci NC, My Home, NC, ncIMPACT, Black Issues Forum, Front Row with Marc Rotterman and NC SPIN.
  • Over 4,800 parents and caregivers engaged with trusted resources via free Bright by Text subscription service last year.

How is UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina funded?

As North Carolina’s only statewide television network, UNC-TV’s four channels and its digital content are made possible through a unique partnership of public investment and private support. 

As a part of The University of North Carolina System, UNC-TV receives continuing state support through the UNC System from the state legislature, federal funding through Congressional appropriations, private and public grants, corporate and foundation support, and from a robust member-base. Member and private support now provides UNC-TV with approximately 53% of its annual budget. 

Questions for maximizing UNC-TV’s strategic investments in STEM teacher quality in North Carolina

  1. How can the public and policymakers be encouraged to better understand and support UNCV-TV Public Media North Carolina, given its value as a resource for teachers, students, and parents for direct instruction and for informal learning in STEM and other content areas? 
  2. What strategies are public and private teacher preparation programs in North Carolina using to capitalize on the considerable resources of UNC-TV to better prepare teachers in using high quality digital resources to promote student learning? How could these  strategies be shared across the state and beyond?
  3. Given the realities of how even the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on political overtones in reporting data and public impacts, how can UNC-TV Public Media advance itself as a trusted source for North Carolinians?

Special thanks to Laura Kieler, Chief Marketing Officer, and Joy Potts, Director of Children’s Media & Education Services, UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina for their assistance in compiling this edition of the NC STEM ScoreCardSend questions and comments on the NC STEM ScoreCard to

Charles Coble

Charles R. Coble, co-founder & partner of Teacher Preparation Analytics, was Professor of Science Education for 23 years and for 13 years Dean of the School of Education at East Carolina University.