WQED (TV)

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WQED
WQED Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Branding WQED Pittsburgh
Slogan Changes Lives
Channels Digital: 13 (VHF)
Virtual: 13 (PSIP)
Subchannels 13.1 WQED HD
13.2 Create
13.3 Neighborhood Channel
13.4 Showcase
Affiliations PBS
Owner WQED Multimedia
First air date April 1, 1954
Call letters' meaning Quod Erat Demonstrandum
Sister station(s) WQED-FM
Former channel number(s) Analog:
13 (VHF, 1954–2009)
Digital:
38 (UHF, 1999–2009)
Former affiliations NET (1954–1970)
Transmitter power 25 kW
Height 210 m
Facility ID 41315
Transmitter coordinates 40°26′46″N 79°57′51″W / 40.44611°N 79.96417°W / 40.44611; -79.96417 (WQED)
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
CDBS
Website www.wqed.org

WQED, VHF channel 13, is a PBS member television station located in 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 United States as well as the fifth public television station. WQED also became the first station to telecast classes to elementary school classrooms when Pittsburgh launched the Metropolitan School Service in 1955. WQED has been the flagship station for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?.

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

The idea for a public television station was the brainchild of Pittsburgh mayor David L. Lawrence, who wanted 12 percent of all television stations in the United States to be for non-commercial educational use. Despite the fact that the FCC put an indefinite "freeze" on all television station licenses due to the excess amount of applications on file, 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 Plate 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 Corporation, owners of pioneer radio station KDKA. Westinghouse wanted to get a television 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 television market – and was growing impatient with the "freeze" on television station licenses. Westinghouse had launched WBZ-TV in Boston in 1948 and would purchase WPTZ-TV (now KYW-TV) in Philadelphia in 1952, but was unable to secure a license for a television station in its home market. By the time the "freeze" was lifted in 1952, the FCC granted station licences in smaller cities such as Steubenville, Ohio; Wheeling, West Virginia; Clarksburg, West Virginia; Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Altoona, Pennsylvania; Youngstown, Ohio; and Erie, Pennsylvania 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. The station's call letters, Q.E.D., are taken from the Latin phrase, quod erat demonstrandum (what had to be proved or what was to be demonstrated), commonly used in mathematics.[1]

Westinghouse would not have to wait much longer for its own television 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, Westinghouse offered DuMont a then-record $10 million for WDTV, which DuMont promptly accepted in January 1955. Westinghouse immediately changed the call sign from WDTV to KDKA-TV, making it a sister station to radio station KDKA. DuMont was not able to get clearance in larger markets and was out of business by the end of 1956. Although KDKA-TV is now owned by Westinghouse successor CBS Corporation (as a CBS owned-and-operated station) 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.[2]

Heyday[edit]

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 Society. 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.

Decline[edit]

WQED's headquarters, right next to Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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 WQED's auxiliary station, WQEX (channel 16), outright in 1999. In 2002, WQEX's non-commercial educational status was removed, and the station would move to an all-shopping format, first with America's Store and later with ShopNBC. In November 2010, WQED reached a deal to sell WQEX to Ion Media Networks for $3 million. The sale was consummated (after FCC approval) on May 2, 2011, at which time the station's call sign changed from WQEX to WINP-TV.[3][4]

Tight knit group of employees[edit]

WQED's employees are historically a tight knit group. Longtime sound man and Ohio University 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 television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[5]
13.1 1080i 16:9 Main WQED programming / PBS
13.2 480i 4:3 Create
13.3 Neighborhood Channel
13.4 Showcase

On January 5, 2009, WQED launched the Create Channel on 13.2, replacing the standard-definition simulcast of WQED's main channel.[6]

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WQED shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal relocated on its pre-transition UHF channel 38 to VHF channel 13 for its post-transition operations.[7] This made WQED the only full-powered station in the Pittsburgh market to move its digital signal back to its analog-era channel position. Former sister station WINP-TV took over WQED's former digital channel 38, broadcasting on virtual channel 16.1.

Original programming[edit]

Local[edit]

  • OnQ (2000-present) – weekdays
  • Black Horizons (1968-present) – weekly as the longest running African-American issues program in the nation.[8]

Rick Sebak Pittsburgh Series[edit]

  • The Mon, The Al & The O (1988)
  • Kennywood Memories (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 Pittsburgh (1992)
  • Stuff That’s Gone (1994)
  • Houses Around Here (1994)
  • The Strip Show (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)
  • 25 Things I Like About Pittsburgh (2012)

State[edit]

  • Eat Pennsylvania (2006)

Rick Sebak Pennsylvania programs[edit]

National[edit]

Rick Sebak National programs[edit]

Chris Moore National programs[edit]

  • Wylie Avenue Days (1991)
  • In Country: A Vietnam Story (2006)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]