WQED, virtual and VHF digital channel 13, is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station licensed to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. The station is owned by WQED Multimedia. Established on April 1, 1954, it was the first community-sponsored television station in the U.S. and the country's fifth public television station. WQED's studios are located at 4802 Fifth Avenue, and its transmitter is located near the University of Pittsburgh campus, both in Pittsburgh's Oakland section. On cable, WQED is carried on Comcast Xfinity channel 9 (channel 12 in Bethel Park and channel 14 in Monroeville), and Verizon FiOS channel 13.
WQED was the first station to telecast classes to elementary school classrooms when Pittsburgh launched its Metropolitan School Service in 1955. The station has been the flagship for the shows Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood whose live-action scenes were filmed in Pittsburgh.
A public television station was the brainchild of Pittsburgh mayor David L. Lawrence, who wanted 12 percent of U.S. TV stations licensed for non-commercial educational use. Despite the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) putting an indefinite freeze on new TV station licenses (due to the number of applications on file), the commission granted Lawrence a license if he could raise money to equip and operate the station. Lawrence, a friend of President Harry S. Truman, recruited Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company attorney Leland Hazard to help get the station off the ground.
Its greatest obstacle was Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric Corporation, owners of radio station KDKA. Westinghouse wanted a TV station in the city to compete with the DuMont-owned-and-operated WDTV (which had a de facto monopoly in the nation's sixth-largest television market), and was impatient with the freeze on new licenses. Although the corporation launched WBZ-TV in Boston in 1948 and purchased Philadelphia's WPTZ-TV (now KYW-TV) in 1952, it was unable to secure a TV-station license in its home market. When the freeze was lifted in 1952, the FCC granted station licenses to smaller cities (such as Steubenville and Youngstown, Ohio; Wheeling and Clarksburg, West Virginia, and Johnstown, Altoona and Erie, Pennsylvania) before granting more licenses in Pittsburgh. All those cities shared the VHF band with Pittsburgh, and only Youngstown would end up as a UHF island.
Westinghouse presented a compromise to the FCC, offering to share its proposed KDKA-TV with WQED on channel 13. Hazard found this unacceptable, and asked Westinghouse CEO Gwilym Price if he should give up his quest for public television. Price said that Hazard should keep fighting, promising Westinghouse support for WQED. Westinghouse donated the tower it had purchased for the channel 13 license, enabling WQED to sign on on April 1, 1954. The station's call letters are from the Latin phrase quod erat demonstrandum ("what was demonstrated"), commonly used in mathematics.
Westinghouse soon had its Pittsburgh TV station. Knowing that DuMont needed WDTV's cash flow to get its programming cleared in larger markets and a short-term cash infusion after DuMont investor Paramount Pictures vetoed a merger between DuMont and ABC, Westinghouse offered DuMont $10 million for WDTV in January 1955. It changed the station's call sign to KDKA-TV, making it a sister station of radio station KDKA. DuMont, unable to obtain clearance in larger markets, was out of business by the end of 1956. Although KDKA-TV is now owned by Westinghouse successor CBS Corporation, the station retains a close relationship with WQED.
WQED briefly shared channel 13 with WENS-TV in 1955, after a storm damaged the WENS-TV tower in Reserve Township, until the WENS-TV tower was repaired. WQED acquired the station and renamed it WQEX in 1959, using the construction permit it had acquired for channel 22 to launch WQEX on channel 16. The Commercial Radio Institute acquired the WENS-TV permit for channel 22, launching WPTT (now WPNT) in 1978.
The station was briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network during the late 1950s, sharing the affiliation with KDKA-TV, WTAE-TV, and WIIC-TV (now WPXI). From sign-on until its replacement by PBS in 1970, WQED was a member of National Educational Television.
During its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, WQED supplied programming to PBS. For 15 years, WQED produced the National Geographic specials for the National Geographic Society. The programs won several Emmy and other awards, including Peabody Awards.
Michael Keaton, who worked behind the scenes on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, went on to international fame. During its heyday, WQED supported a post-production office and editing facility in Los Angeles. Known as QED/West, the satellite edited much of WQED's national programming.
During the early 1990s, WQED faltered nationally 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 income without informing the board of directors. The period was chronicled in Jerold Starr's 2000 book, Air Wars: The Fight to Reclaim Public Broadcasting.
Problems continued with a failed attempt to sell WQED's auxiliary station, WQEX, in 1999. In 2002, WQEX's non-commercial educational status was removed; the station moved to a shopping format, first with America's Store and later with ShopNBC. In November 2010, WQED agreed to sell WQEX to Ion Media Networks for $3 million. The sale was completed (after FCC approval) on May 2, 2011, when the station's call sign changed from WQEX to WINP-TV. WQED received $9.9 million in a 2017 spectrum auction, and will use the proceeds to pay down debt the station has carried since the 1990s.
The Fred Rogers Studio, where Fred Rogers filmed his iconic television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, will be featured in the upcoming film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks playing Rogers. The cast and crew shot at the WQED headquarters throughout October 2018.
|TV stations in Pennsylvania|
| WHYY/WDPB, Philadelphia/Seaford|
|TV stations in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Northeastern West Virginia and Far Western Maryland, including Pittsburgh and Morgantown|
| KDKA 2 (CBS)|