History of WQED Multimedia

WQED was an experiment in educational community-supported television that was the forerunner to PBS. Today, WQED is a multimedia powerhouse that is as much a part of Pittsburgh as the three rivers. WQED is WQED-TV (PBS); WQED World; WQED Create; WQED Showcase; WQED PBS KIDS Channel; Classical WQED-FM 89.3/Pittsburgh; Classical WQEJ-FM 89.7/Johnstown; the Pittsburgh Concert Channel at WQED-HD2 (89.3-2FM) and online at www.wqed.org/fm; local and national television and radio productions; WQED Interactive (www.wqed.org) and WQED Education (www.wqed.org/edu).

Throughout its history, WQED has partnered with hundreds of local community organizations toward improvements in education, diversity and inclusion, arts and culture, community health, economics, and important local issues through its unique form of civic journalism. As the only community-owned multimedia resource in the region, WQED is a convener, a central gathering place, and a conduit for other local non-profit organizations.

WQED has exported the region nationally with projects like The War That Made America, a four-part historical documentary on the French and Indian War that aired nationwide on PBS; national cooking shows with Chris Fennimore; the Doo Wop music franchise; weekly national radio broadcasts of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and a continuing series of local and national documentaries by Emmy Award-winning producer Rick Sebak.

WQED’s national production, August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand, aired nationally on PBS American Masters in February 2015. The documentary focused on the life and work of Pittsburgh-native and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson and included an extensive educational initiative in key cities across the country.

In November 2020, PBS aired WQED’s latest documentary, Harbor From The Holocaust. The program told the riveting story of the plight of more than 30,000 Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930s and found safe harbor in the port city of Shanghai, China.

Black Horizons premiered in April 1968, the same month as the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The groundbreaking program went on to become the nation's longest-running series aimed at the African American audience. Alex Haley appeared on Black Horizons before the Roots catapulted him to national notoriety. A variety of performers have appeared, including opera star Demarius Cooper, rapper Tuffy Tuff, Kuntu Theatre performers, gospel singer Jackie Pullen, the Dana Movement Ensemble, and the African drum ensemble called Umoja.

In addition to the local and national documentaries, WQED produces and airs local programs that capture the stories of advancement, arts, and diversity in our region, including documentaries like Portrayal & Perception: African American Men & Boys; Childhood Lost: The Adultification of African American Girls; Beacon for Change: The Pittsburgh Courier Story; Torchbearers: The Story of Pittsburgh's Freedom Fighters; Return To The Roots of Civil Rights; Come By Here: A History of Five Churches; Flyboys: Western Pennsylvania's Tuskegee Airmen; and The Good Fight.

Additional recent local documentaries include Trailblazers of the Suffrage Movement: Celebrating 100 Years; The Robot Doctor; Homecoming: Sgt. Hamilton’s Long Journey; All The Marbles; The Long Shadow of Childhood Trauma; Future Jobs; Starved: Our Food Insecurity Crisis, and online series like Digital Docs and WQED Sessions.

Filmmakers Corner is a weekly anthology series that highlights the work of local filmmakers.

Classical WQED-FM is “the voice of the arts in western Pennsylvania” by highlighting all that the station has meant for the region with retrospectives, tributes, community events, and celebrations. WQED-FM has offered classical and fine arts and cultural programs since its inception in 1973, allowing listeners to hear live and recorded classical performances and learn the latest arts and culture news from Pittsburgh and worldwide. Listeners can hear WQED-FM at 89.3 and on its repeater stations, WQED-FM89.7 /Johnstown.

WQED Interactive, a media portal to the world, makes the aforementioned WQED programs all the more accessible to viewers and listeners, any time and any place. WQED reaches close to 100,000 people through social media.

WQED Education is a national leader in lifelong learning and provides programming, online resources, teacher training, and educational resources to local schools and libraries. WQED's educational goals and objectives are to provide new tools and models, thought leadership, research, and training on the intersection of media and learning to prepare our children for a competitive world. We provide content for science and technology, literacy, global cultures and connections, expression, social and community responsibility, and numeracy.

WQED was named by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) as one of only 12 original stations designated for a five-year Ready to Learn (RTL) grant. The curriculum will focus on career readiness and interconnect with WQED’s Future Jobs initiative. Using a “Learning Neighborhoods” model, partnerships will include schools, libraries, and museums. The culture of the RTL work promotes a “Learn Together” theme and empowers learning anytime and anywhere.

WQED Education has been building on the successful partnership established with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. WQED’s content contributions and participation in a statewide block of programming airs on the WQED Showcase channel as part of our PA PBS partnership.