National Educational Television
was an American
educational television network
in the United States from
, to October 4
. It was
replaced on October 5
, by the PBS
, which continues to the
The network was founded as the Educational Television and Radio
(ETRC) in November 1952 by a grant from the Ford Foundation
's Fund for Adult Education.
It was originally a limited service for exchanging and distributing
educational programs produced by local television stations to other
stations; it did not produce any material by itself.
spring of 1954, ETRC moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and on May 16 of that year it began its operation
as a "network".
It put together a daily five-hour package of
programming, releasing it primarily on kinescope
film to the affiliated stations by mail.
The programming was noted for treating subjects in depth, including
hourlong interviews with people of literary and historical
importance. The programming was also noted for being dry and
academic, with little consideration given to entertainment value, a
marked contrast to commercial television. Many of the shows were
designed as adult education, and ETRC was nicknamed the "University
of the Air".
center's headquarters moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan to New York
City in 1958 and the organization became known as the
National Educational Television and Radio Center
The center became more aggressive at this time, aiming to have the
role of the U.S.' fourth
. This included the beginning of imported
programming from the BBC
into the United States.
It increased its output to ten hours a week.
The organization changed tack again in November 1963. It renamed
itself National Educational Television
, and spun off its
radio assets. Under the centerpiece show NET Journal
began to air controversial, hard-hitting documentaries
that explored numerous social
issues of the day such as poverty
. While praised by critics, many
affiliates, especially those in politically and culturally conservative
markets, objected to the perceived
slant of the programming.
In 1966, NET's viability came into question when the Ford
Foundation decided to begin withdrawing financial support because
of NET's continual need for additional funding. In the meantime,
the affiliated stations were determined to try to keep that from
happening by developing a reliable source of revenue.
The U.S. government intervened and created the Corporation for Public
in 1967 to fund the network for the time being.
However, the CPB's intent was to create its own public broadcasting
network. The CPB embarked on that course of action because many NET
affiliates were alienated by the programming that network offered.
These affiliates further felt that NET's simultaneous production
and distribution of programming constituted a conflict of
first began operations in 1969, with NET
still producing several shows. However, NET's refusal to stop
airing the critically praised but controversial documentaries led
to the decision of both Ford and the CPB to shut the network down.
1970, both threatened to cut their funding unless NET merged its
operations with Newark, New Jersey public station WNDT-TV.
October 5, 1970, the
exact day that PBS began broadcasting, NET and WNDT-TV officially
completed their merger.
NET ceased to operate as a separate
network from that point, although some NET-branded programming,
such as NET Journal
, was part of the PBS schedule for
another couple of years before the identity was finally retired.
call sign was changed to the present WNET shortly
Some shows that began on NET, such as
continue to air on PBS today.
The NET acronym has since been revived twice: first in 1993 through
1997 as National
(later known as "America's Voice"), a
that aired news and talk
programming catering to a conservative
audience; and in 2005, when Nebraska ETV and Nebraska Public Radio
were united under a single name, Nebraska Educational
- 1952-1958: Educational Television and Radio Center (ETRC)
- 1958-1963: National Educational Television and Radio Center
- 1963-1970: National Educational Television (NET)