A mock 1970s living room, featuring a black-and-white TV playing Service Electric's news channel from the time. The immersive room is exhibited at the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem. (Morgan Wright/ B&W Staff)

A Night at the Museum for the history of media


The Museum of Industrial History recently hosted a “Night at the Museum” event highlighting the history of television, advertising and related media fields in the Lehigh Valley and beyond. 

The night consisted of three parts: networking, a panel discussion and a museum tour, and it was put together by Lehigh Valley-based media companies Viamedia, Service Electric, WFMZ-TV, Vsyn+ and PBS 39. 

Around 40 people attended from across the Lehigh Valley, welcomed with live music, refreshments and local treats at the entrance of the museum. They were also given the opportunity to individually speak with the panelists and the event organizers. 

Susan Kovacs, a senior account executive for Viamedia, helped organize the event which happened early last month. 

“Our programs are intended to really give the professional community in marketing and advertising an opportunity to learn or experience topics and information that is relevant to their job or community,” Kovacs said.

The event was inspired by Viamedia, the advertising partner with Service Electric, a pioneer company in the development of cable television. The museum currently hosts an exhibit to celebrate their 75th anniversary. 

The exhibit displays the history of Service Electric, from black-and-white to color television, with a timeline from 1948 to today. It includes a model living room from the 1970s, giving a peek into what cable TV looked like when it was one of the greatest technological advances of its time. 

Kavacs said the venue was ideal because it showcased both the exhibit, which covered the history of Service Electric, and to a discussion regarding the history and future of television. 

“We decided that all the players, the Lehigh Valley leaders in television, each have a very fundamental story to tell,” Kovacs said. 

Five leaders from different media organizations were invited to speak about their role within their company, how it has changed throughout the years and where they think the future of television is heading. 

Each speaker discussed how cable television is still fighting to be relevant, especially with the popularity of streaming platforms like YouTube, Netflix and Hulu.

Jeff Kelly, the director of engineering at Service Electric Cable, has been working with Service Electric for 50 years. He was a panelist at the event. 

“Sharing our story with other professionals in the Lehigh Valley community could give them inspiration to start their own,” Kelly said.

He said the event was important in honoring Service Electric’s commitment to the Lehigh Valley, as well as providing a space for professionals in the industry to talk about their experience in their careers. 

Another panelist, Barry Fisher, the president and general manager of WFMZ-TV, explained that the station started back in 1976 with five employees in the newsroom. 

Today, WFMZ-TV employs over 168 full- and part-time people. 

“The companies here are all fairly entrepreneurial companies,” Fisher said. “It’s always nice to give people who are starting new companies a little vision of how it’s usually tough to start things. I think they enjoy seeing companies that have been successful over a long period of time.”

Javier Diaz, the director of production at PBS 39, said it’s important to raise awareness about these long-standing companies to the creatives of the community and ensure people know what they have to offer. 

Diaz believes having local leadership speak to local professionals is incredibly relevant. 

“Locally is where things are going to happen,” Diaz said. “These people are people who can make things happen in the Lehigh Valley and can collaborate.”

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