The PPL Media Center is located next to the ArtsQuest Center in South Bethlehem. The center mainly broadcasts throughout the Lehigh Valley. (Jordan Wolman/B&W Staff)

Local PBS station broadens reach into community


The PPL Media Center, home of PBS39, broadcasts across the Lehigh Valley and is based directly next to the ArtsQuest Center in South Bethlehem.

The PBS39 Bethlehem facility, which opened in 2011, was sponsored by the Allentown-based PPL Corporation in October 2015, when the building was renamed. The station is dedicated to broadcasting Lehigh Valley-specific news.

Dana Burns, a spokesperson for PPL, said the company decided to sponsor PBS in 2015 for several reasons.

“PPL supports organizations that play a vital role in educating the communities we serve,” Burns said. “We’re proud to support PBS39 and the role the station plays in developing programming for citizens from childhood to adulthood.”

PBS39 partners with many of its neighbors in South Bethlehem, such ArtsQuest and the Banana Factory.

Mark Demko, a spokesperson for ArtsQuest, said the two companies are important aspects of the larger community.

“ArtsQuest and PBS came together many years ago to work as partners along with the city of Bethlehem, the city’s redevelopment authority and others to develop the Steelstacks center,” Demko said. “Opened in 2011, the media center and its neighbors collaborate on different programs and initiatives in the community.”

Demko said PBS and ArtsQuest perform educational programming in the community, and highlighted the joint marketing campaign the two companies worked on to advertise a documentary celebrating this year’s 35th anniversary of MusikFest, an annual festival in Bethlehem.

He said the media center is a valuable resource for the community.

“As public media affiliate, they do an excellent job covering the happenings and issues that affect our community and have really expanded that over the past year, through adding in their nightly news program and focusing as well on Arts and Media happenings in the area,” Demko said.

PBS39 has continued its outreach to community partners by collaborating with Lehigh’s Global Citizenship program to produce a series about political topics in today’s society, entitled “Finding our Common Thread: Tackling Political Apathy.” The series was taped at the PPL Media Center, in front of a studio audience in April 2018.

Sara Boyd, ’21, works with PBS39 at the media center and is a panelist for the station’s “Reporter’s Roundtable,” a weekly panel that discusses issues of national, regional and campus concern. The other panelists are college students as well.

“Every week, we throw out countless issues we think are worth discussing, we narrow them down, and we become as close to experts as we can before we film the show,” Boyd said. “I learn something new on set each week.” 

More Lehigh students are taking note of the media center as it expands its coverage and reach into the broader community.

“I’ve visited Steelstacks multiple times since arriving at Lehigh, and I have always been curious about the media center,” said Maggie Barr, ’22. “After attending MusikFest, I took an interest in the news coverage in the area. Hopefully, I’ll be able to visit the center at some point and figure out how to get involved more with the area.”   

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  1. Any Lehigh University students or others interested in getting involved with PBS39 can contact me directly to discuss the possibilities. Jim Macdonald – Director of Marketing, PBS39. 610-984-8130.

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