Perhaps more so than any other cable channel, present-day TLC is virtually unrecognizable compared to its original incarnation. The channel was born in the early 1970s as a project of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and NASA called the Appalachian Community Service Network, but when it was privatized in 1980, it took on the name The Learning Channel and created a schedule consisting entirely of educational and informational programming. In 1998, the channel, now owned by Discovery Networks, dropped "Learning" from its name, called itself simply TLC, and shifted its programming almost entirely to reality entertainment programming.
Early TLC reality series included design and home-related shows such as "Trading Spaces" and human-interest shows like "A Wedding Story" and "A Baby Story." In the mid-2000s, the channel's programming began to concentrate on the human-interest niche, moving away from the home-related programming and adding more series that centered around unusual families; the popular "Jon & Kate Plus 8" and "17 Kids and Counting" featured families with large numbers of children, and "Little People, Big World" follows a family of little people.
Some of TLC's more sensational reality series have drawn controversy along with respectable ratings. "Toddlers & Tiaras" presents the drama surrounding child beauty pageants, and the series' spin-off "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" focuses on one of the pageants' contestants and her family, all of whom live in rural Georgia.