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WQED (digital channel 13) is a PBS television station based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker. Established April 1, 1954, it was the first community-sponsored television station in the United Statesmarker as well as the fifth public TV station. WQED also became the first station to telecast classes to elementary classrooms when Pittsburgh launched the Metropolitan School Service in 1955. WQED has produced many shows for PBS, such as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. Pittsburgh Magazine is also a publication of WQED.


Early Years

The idea for a public television station was the brainchild of Pittsburgh mayor David L. Lawrence, who wanted 12 percent of all TV stations in the United Statesmarker to be for non-commercial, educational use. Despite the fact that the FCC put an indefinite "freeze" on all television licenses due to the excess amount of applications for one, they granted Lawrence one on the condition they could raise enough money to equip and operate the station. Lawrence was also a close personal ally of then-President Harry S. Truman, which also helped out his cause. Lawrence then recruited Leland Hazard, an attorney for Pittsburgh Paint & Glass Company who also supported the idea of public television, to help get the station off the ground.

The biggest obstacle, however, would be Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric, owners of pioneer radio station KDKAmarker. Westinghouse wanted to get a TV station signed on in Pittsburgh to compete with DuMont O&O WDTV--which at the time had a de facto monopoly in what was then the nation's sixth-largest TV market--and was growing impatient with the "freeze" of television licenses. The station had launched WBZ-TVmarker in Bostonmarker in 1948 and would purchase WPTZ-TV (now KYW-TVmarker) in Philadelphiamarker in 1952, but was unable to secure a license for a TV station in its home market. By the time the "freeze" was lifted in 1952, the FCC granted smaller cities such as Steubenville, Ohiomarker; Wheeling, West Virginiamarker; Clarksburg, West Virginiamarker; Johnstown, Pennsylvaniamarker; Altoona, Pennsylvaniamarker; Youngstown, Ohiomarker; and Erie, Pennsylvaniamarker the chance to sign on before more stations in Pittsburgh signed on. All of those cities shared the VHF band with Pittsburgh, and only Youngstown would ultimately end up as a UHF island.

Westinghouse later offered a compromise to the FCC, offering to have them get the channel 13 license for the proposed KDKA-TV and have them "share" the frequency with WQED. Considered unacceptable to Hazard, he called Westinghouse CEO Gwilym Price to ask him if he should give up on his fight for public television. Price said that Hazard should keep fighting for it, giving Westinghouse backing for the future WQED. Westinghouse even donated to Hazard the tower Westinghouse had purchased had it gotten the channel 13 license, making way for WQED to sign on April 1, 1954.

Westinghouse wouldn't have to wait much longer for its own TV station in Pittsburgh, though. Knowing that DuMont needed WDTV's cash flow to get its programming cleared in larger markets but also needed a short-term cash infusion after DuMont investor Paramount Pictures vetoed a merger between DuMont and ABC (which itself had just merged with United Paramount Theaters, which at the time still had lingering questions if itself had been completely spun off from its namesake as it had been ordered by the FCC in 1948), Westinghouse offered DuMont a then-record $10 million for WDTV, which DuMont promptly accepted. Due to the loss of WDTV (which Westinghouse immediately changed the call signs to the aforementioned KDKA-TVmarker), DuMont wasn't able to get clearance in larger markets anymore and was out of business by the end of 1956. Although KDKA-TV is now owned by Westinghouse successor CBS Corporation (as a CBS O&O) as a result of various mergers, the station still retains a close relationship with WQED as a result of Westinghouse helping to get WQED on the air.


During its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, WQED was a vital supplier of programming to the national PBS system. For 15 years, WQED produced the National Geographic Specials for the National Geographic Societymarker. These programs, among others, and the craftspeople who produced them, won numerous Emmy Awards and other accolades, including Peabody Awards.

Over the years, talent like Michael Keaton, who worked behind the scenes on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, emerged from the station and went on to national fame.

During its heyday, WQED also supported a post production office and editing facility in Los Angeles. Known as QED/West, the satellite was the editing center for much of WQED's national programming.


Sculpture outside WQED's headquarters
During the beginning of the 1990s, WQED faltered on a national level as the rapidly changing media landscape shifted. The downturn was exacerbated by a scandal in which top executives were discovered to have been augmenting their personal revenues without informing the Board of Directors. This period was chronicled in the 2000 book, Air Wars: The Fight to Reclaim Public Broadcasting by Jerrold M. Starr.

The problems continued with a failed attempt to sell WQEXmarker outright in 1999. WQED still owns the station, but had its non-commercial educational status removed in 2002 and is currently operating WQEX as ShopNBC.

Family of Employees

WQED's employees are historically a tight knit group. Longtime sound man and Ohio Universitymarker professor, John "Bear" Butler, maintains an active e-mail distribution list in which news about the members of WQED's community is updated regularly.

Digital TV

Video Aspect Programming
13.1 1080i 16:9 WQED-HD
13.2 480i 4:3 The WQED Create Channel
13.3 480i 4:3 The WQED Neighborhood Channel

On Monday, January 5th, 2009, WQED launched the WQED Create Channel on 13.2, replacing the SDTV simulcast of the main WQED channel.

On April 1, 2009, WQED remained on channel 13 when the analog to digital conversion completed. This will make WQED the only full-powered station in the Pittsburgh market to move its digital signal back to its original analog channel position. Sister station WQEXmarker will take over WQED's current digital position of channel 38, broadcasting on virtual channel 16.1

Original programming


  • OnQ — weekdays
  • Black Horizons - weekly



Chris Moore programs

  • Black Horizons — weekly
  • Wylie Avenue Days (1991)
  • In Country: A Vietnam Story (2006)

Rick Sebak specials

Pittsburgh History Series

Nostalgia documentaries by Rick Sebak:
  • Kennywood Memories (1988)
  • The Mon, The Al & The O (1988)
  • Holy Pittsburgh! (1989)
  • Flying Off The Bridge To Nowhere! And Other Tales Of Pittsburgh Bridges (1990)
  • Things That Aren’t There Anymore (1990)
  • Downtown Pittsburghmarker (1992)
  • Stuff That’s Gone (1994)
  • Houses Around Here (1994)
  • The Strip Showmarker (1996)
  • North Side Story (1997)
  • South Side (1998)
  • Things That Are Still Here (1999)
  • Something About Oakland (2000)
  • Pittsburgh A To Z (2001)
  • Happy Holidays in Pittsburgh (2002)
  • Things We've Made (2003)
  • It's the Neighborhoods (2004)
  • What Makes Pittsburgh Pittsburgh (2006)
  • Underground Pittsburgh (2007)
  • Invented, Engineered, and Pioneered in Pittsburgh (2008)
  • Right Beside the River (2009)

Pennsylvania programs

  • The Pennsylvania Road Show (1992)
  • Pennsylvania Diners And Other Roadside Restaurants (1993)

National programs

See also


External links

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