National Educational Television was an educational television network in the USA from 1952 to 1970. It was replaced on October 5, 1970 by the Public Broadcasting Service, which continues to the present.
The network was founded as the Educational Television and Radio Center (ETRC) in November 1952 by a grant from the Ford Foundation's Fund for Adult Education. It was originally a limited service for exchanging and distributing educational programs produced by local television stations to other stations; it did not produce any material by itself.
In the spring of 1954, ETRC moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and on May 16 of that year it began its operation as a "network". It put together a daily five-hour package of programming, releasing it primarily on kinescope film to the affiliated stations by mail. The programming was noted for treating subjects in depth, including hourlong interviews with people of literary and historical importance. The programming was also noted for being dry and academic, with little consideration given to entertainment value, in marked contrast to commercial television. Many of the shows were designed as adult education, and ETRC was nicknamed The University of the Air.
The center became more aggressive at this time, aiming to have the role of the U.S.' fourth television network. This included the beginning of imported programming from the BBC into the United States. It increased its output to ten hours a week.
The organization changed tack again in November 1963. It renamed itself National Educational Television, and spun off its radio assets. Under the centerpiece show NET Journal, NET began to air controversial, hard-hitting documentaries that explored numerous social issues of the day such as poverty and racism. While praised by critics, many affiliates, especially those in politically and culturally conservative markets, objected to the perceived liberal slant of the programming.
In 1966, NET's viability came into question when the Ford Foundation decided to begin withdrawing financial support because of NET's continual need for additional funding. In the meantime, the affiliated stations (e.g., WGBH, WETA-TV, WNDT, WTTW, WQED, KCET, KUHT),and phoenix,AZ station KAET were determined to try to keep that from happening by developing a reliable source of revenue.
The U.S. government intervened and created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1967 to fund the network for the time being. However, the CPB's intent was to create its own public broadcasting network. This was done because many NET affiliates were alienated by the programming. These affiliates felt NET's simultaneous production and broadcasting of programming constituted a conflict of interest.
PBS first began operations in 1969, with NET producing several shows. However, NET's refusal to stop airing the critically-acclaimed but also hard-hitting and controversial documentaries led to the decision of both the CPB and the Ford Foundation to shut NET down. In late 1969, both threatened to withdraw their funding grants unless NET merged with Newark, New Jersey public station WNDT-TV.
On Monday, October 5, 1970, the very same day that PBS officially began broadcasting, NET and WNDT-TV officially completed their merger. NET ceased to operate as a separate network from that point, although some NET-branded programming, such as NET Journal, was part of the PBS schedule for another couple of years before the identity was finally retired. WNDT's call sign was changed to the present WNET shortly thereafter. Shows that began on NET, such as Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, continue to air on PBS today.
The NET acronym has since been revived twice; first in the 1990s, as National Empowerment Television, a cable channel which aired news and talk programming catering to a conservative audience, and left the air in 2000; and in 2005, when Nebraska ETV and Nebraska Public Radio were united under a single name, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications.
The original identifying logo for National Educational Television was used from November 1952 to October 1962. It was a simple still shot of the network's logo -- the letters "NET" with an asymmetrically-slanted roof beginning at the top-right of the "T" and hanging over the "N" and the "E," and with a small antenna sticking out over the "N." There are also strange "stars" all over the screen. Many people believe this logo was nothing but a cameraman aiming at a carpet in the NET offices. Meanwhile, an announcer (believed by some to be Edward R. Murrow) says, "This is National Educational Television."
This identity is rather rare, and only known to exist in black and white. It was used from 1966 to 1968. First, gray dots appear and disappear rapidly. A white circle is drawn around the dots and several curved vertical and horizontal lines cover the circle to create an image of a globe. A small live-action shade of grey fire appears in the globe. Several white lines appear under the globe to make the letters "NET". The globe ultimately winds up on top of the "T". The music playing in the background during the animation is industrious-sounding. When the animation is complete, an announcer says, "This is N-E-T, the National Educational Television network."
Introduced in 1968, this was National Educational Television's best known ID. Two editions of the ident were made, and they existed in both black-and-white and in color variations at the same time.
In the 1968-1969 version, a red block sets down from the left side of the screen, then, a yellow block rises up from the center of the screen and a blue block sets down from the right side of the screen. Afterwards, the blocks turn into the letters "N-E-T" before coming closer to each other. Then a man's voice (one of which was Fred Rogers) would say "The following program is from/This is N-E-T, the National Educational Television network." As he says this, the words 'National Educational Television' appears above the NET logo and bends to form a roof with an antenna on it, which connects the T.
The 1969-1970 version followed the same principle, except that the announcer (believed to be longtime American Broadcasting Company staff announcer Fred Foy) would say "The following program is from/This is N-E-T, the Public Television Network." As this is said, a blue line (which replaced the words above "N-E-T") was drawn above the letters, and was bent to form its usual position. This was used from 1969 until the forced merger with New York station WNDT-TV in October 1970, officially disbanding the network. Both logos were used on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (with the latter, the logo was superimposed into a building within the model set at the beginning and end of each program and still remained in reruns well into the 80s).