New WOSU studio named for GC resident

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 Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
 Dale Ouzts, a retired general manager for WOSU Public Media, was honored for his years of service in public broadcasting with the naming of a radio studio during a March 24 ceremony in the Fawcett Center.

Dale Ouzts may no longer roam the halls of television and radio stations at the Ohio State University, but his name at the door to a new radio studio is a permanent reminder of his decades-long tenure as general manager.

WOSU Public Media unveiled a new radio studio facility on March 24, with one named in honor of Ouzts and his years of dedication and service to the university and public broadcasting. The Grove City resident and golf aficionado became general manager of the WOSU stations and director of the university’s telecommunication center in September 1979 and retired in 2004.

"This is a great day for OSU," said Tom Rieland, WOSU general manager. "It was Dale’s vision that put this together. Dale inspired people to think about the future and provide great public service in the 21st century."

New studio space, more than double the previous square footage, was carved out of former Fawcett Center meeting rooms. Planning for the project began in 2002 and construction started in December 2004. The most significant challenge was installation and management of new studio technology.

According to WOSU Radio Station Manager Tim Eby, the new space expanded capacity so staff members have better access to studios in order to produce local content for WOSU. Staffers can collaborate when developing and producing news content and, for the first time in many years, reporters are able to work in the same room.

As the university welcomed expanded radio operations, it also paused to honor Ouzts’ career at OSU, which began with a $3 million budget and ended with a $16 million budget, including over $4 million in memberships.

"I was going to be a star reporter when I started college," said Ouzts, "but my first job was running a closed circuit television station and so I shot right past reporting."

The University of Georgia and Harvard graduate was active in the national development and growth of public broadcasting and employed as senior vice-president of National Public Radio from 1977 until he started working for OSU. He then served multiple terms on the National Public Radio Board, in addition to tenures as chairman.

In 1989-1990, Ouzts was chairman of the Public Radio Expansion Task Force and is a two-time past president of Public Radio in Mid-America. He founded Kids Voting Central Ohio and is co-founder of the Center of Vocational Alternatives, an organization that helps people overcome mental and emotional challenges by focusing on employment, economic stability and life skills.

"For Dale, it was never just a job," commented Ken Cookson, a member of the Friends of WOSU board, "it was a calling and a passion to make public broadcasting available in the widest public way. Lots and lots of careers were inspired by a guy for whom it wasn’t just a job. Basically, he’s been involved in every aspect of public broadcasting over the last 24 to 25 years."

When Ouzts first arrived at Ohio State, he knew immediately the university’s public broadcasting system was broke and in need of money. He said they borrowed money from OSU in order to stay on the air and then began a campaign of public support.

"All the things that needed to be done couldn’t be done by just the staff, so I opened it up to volunteers," said Ouzts. "We were able to do twice as much because of our volunteers.

We were public broadcasting, so we opened up to the public and so much of what has happened is because of our volunteers.

"In the late 1970s and early 1980s, we sold tapes of the OSU football games to a little company called ESPN to rebroadcast on cable. Now you can watch the same games on ESPN Classics. In 1982 and 1983, we cut a deal with the USA channel and they ran a two-hour version of OSU football nationwide on Mondays at 8 p.m. We had good ratings, but it was a lot of extra work and cost."

Ouzts recalled earlier days in public broadcasting when shows were distributed via bus and the Ford Foundation funded the nation’s first Sunday night news analysis show, which featured a ticking stopwatch, in the late 1960s.

"We had a phenomenal response to the show," commented Ouzts, "but we couldn’t get any more funding and couldn’t keep it going. In 1970, CBS used the same stopwatch and same format to create ’60 Minutes.’ Imagine where we would be today if public broadcasting had the money to keep their show going.

"In the mid 1970s, we were the first to start looking at satellite broadcasting, but all the other communication guys said we were idiots. We were in necessity mode and would try things to get a better value for the dollar. We knew the technology was pretty good, so poverty and creativity can be powerful forces."

With the flurry of fund raising and managing an active public broadcasting system behind him, Ouzts turned his attention to more serious pursuits – improving his golf game. He is chairman of an Upper Arlington Senior Golf League and also plays in a university golf league. He said he has also become a househusband and corresponds frequently with people around the country via the computer.

However, public service, public broadcasting, and WOSU are never far from his thoughts. He may no longer walk the halls at the stations, but his radio is often tuned to 89.7FM or 820 AM and you can find his television turned to WOSU.

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