Public Television History: Pittsburgh’s WQED

Public Broadcasting is a rich tradition in the United States. Almost every child has been touched by Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, or some other educational program brought to them by PBS, and today there are about 350 PBS stations operating in the United States. Historic among them is WQED, located on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh, famous for both its funding and its programming.


WQED had a historic start. In the 1950s, the federal government had put a hold on licensing new television broadcasters. Mayor David L. Lawrence had a vision for a station in Pittsburgh that would be a model station however, serving the community with local, non-commercial, educational programs. He secured a waiver under the condition that the project be funded externally. He would have to raise the entire effort on donations. WQED would be the first such “community sponsored stations” and the fifth public TV station in the United States


The mission was accomplished in 1954, and on April 1, QED began active broadcasting. QED has really set the standard for many of its programs. With excellent programming provided to the national PBS system, the channel would become home to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1968 and would produce and air the National Geographic specials from 1975 to 1991.

WQED continues to broadcast in the Pittsburgh market, and it still produces content for the national audiences as well. While it has declined in prominence since scandals in the 1990s, it continues to serve its mission to bring excellent programming to the Pittsburgh audience

Getting Involved

WQED continues to rely upon community support for much of its funding. you can help WQED and find out more information about how to support community broadcasting at their website at the end of this article. In Pittsburgh, you can tune into QED on channel 13.