Sunrise Semester

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Sunrise Semester
Genre Educational
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 25
No. of episodes 800+
Location(s) New York City;
New York University
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) CBS
Original network CBS
Picture format Black-and-white (1957-66)
Color (1966-82)
Audio format Monaural
Original release September 9, 1957 (1957-09-09) – August 1, 1982 (1982-08-01)

Sunrise Semester is an American television series which aired on CBS from 1957 through 1982. It was produced in conjunction with New York University (NYU). During the months of June, July and August, the program was known as Summer Semester.

The program was so named because it was broadcast at 6:00 or 6:30 a.m., depending on the area. Sunrise Semester was one of the first examples of distance learning, telecourses, or MOOCs. Lecturers presented NYU credit courses in studio on a wide range of academic subjects, and these broadcast courses were offered for credit to anyone who paid the course fees. The teachers were chosen from the NYU faculty, and included Neil Postman, who taught a course in 1976.[1]

The show ran on the CBS schedule for almost 25 years, but by the early 1980s, declining ratings, the rise of public television in the US (which evolved from the educational broadcasting movement of the 1950s that Sunrise Semester was a part of), and CBS' desire to schedule more news-oriented programming in the morning hours, all led to the program's cancellation.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, broadcast of Sunrise Semester was preceded on CBS by The Modern Farmer, which went on air at 5:00 a.m. Then-CBS president Dr. Frank Stanton described the show as "a Sunrise Semester for the rural set," targeting as its audience the family farmer, up early to grab a quick breakfast before setting out to do the mornin' chores. Broadcast in "living black and white", The Modern Farmer featured newsreel footage of new equipment, recent advances in seeding and harvesting techniques, along with "The Cracker Barrel", a primitive form of audience interaction programming. Clem Reynolds and William "Smokey" Chesterfield sat on either side of a cracker barrel and talked about the weather and its effect on crops, told stories and cornball jokes, and took an occasional telephone call from viewers, with the assistance of the local often-flustered switchboard operator, Clara. Since the show was filmed in advance, farmers were sometimes confused when they placed a call to the number on the screen and received no answer (it was 5:00 a.m. and the CBS studio was closed).


  1. ^ "Sunrise Semester begins 13th Season". Lakeland Ledger. September 19, 1976. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 

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