The first step in the modernization of governmental communications in Puerto Rico was the creation, in 1942, of the Puerto Rico Communications Authority (ACPR for its Spanish acronym). It was part of a broad effort promoted by the island government to encourage industrialization, diversification of agriculture, the approval of social welfare legislation, the “nationalization” of essential public services and the creation of public corporations such as the Land Authority (1941), the Water Sources Authority (1941), the Puerto Rico Transportation Authority (1942), the Industrial Development Agency (1942) and others.
As part of a coordinated effort with the executive branch, the Puerto Rico Communications Authority presented an initial request to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1945 to build and operate a public radio station: WIPR-Radio. The government’s main reason at the time, according to a message from Rafael Delgado Márquez to Luis Muñoz Marín on November 23, 1945, was not to compete “for now with the established businesses in Puerto Rico that are dedicated to broadcasting news and business activities by radio. The Authority has in mind to offer programs of selected music and commentary on governmental activities to the public.”
On January 26, 1949, the first program was broadcast by the Public Radio Broadcasting Commission’s radio station: WIPR-Radio. But after a little more than a year of operations under the Puerto Rico Communications Authority, on July 1, 1950, it was transferred to the Department of Public Education. The arrival of television, however, was not far behind.
The first reference to the Puerto Rico government’s plans for educational television is from 1950 and comes from a document titled Datos Biográficos del Sr. Jack Delano. Delano had worked from 1949 to 1953 as director of the Cinema Unit of the Division of Community Education. In 1950, Puerto Rico Governor Luis Muñoz Marín named him as a member of a special committee to conduct a preliminary study on establishing an educational television station in Puerto Rico. The project of creating a public television station was further refined from 1950 to 1954. ACPR Administrator Rafael Delgado Márquez was given the task of developing and bringing to fruition the project of creating a public television station.
With modest resources, the first broadcast by WIPR-TV occurred on January 6, 1958, as part of the Department of Public Education’s Radio and Television Service. WIPR-Radio and WIPR-TV consolidated their management under the direction of Rafael Delgado Márquez, who was then general manager of the Radio and Television Service, along with a group of distinguished artists and producers such as Jack Delano, Leopoldo Santiago Lavandero, José A. Buitrago, and ángel F. Rivera, among others.
During 1959, the Commonwealth government continued work on an important plan for expanding the radio and television infrastructure with the objective of serving the entire island. That year, the Radio and Television Service received authorization from the FCC to build a second radio station, this one on the FM band, and to build a second television station, WIPM-TV, Channel 3, in Mayagüez.
On April 28, 1961, WIPM-TV, Channel 3, was officially inaugurated, a milestone that marked the conclusion of the construction and development phase of the public radio and television systems of Puerto Rico.
The efforts in the cultural and educational spheres begun by the Puerto Rico Communications Authority, through the development of public communications in Puerto Rico, was an important component of the educational project framed by the movement to modernize the island.
Author: Luis Rosario Albert
Published: September 12, 2014.
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