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KQED's History

KQED auction cow

Cows in the KQED Studios? Take a nostalgic trip through KQED's history, starting in the 1950s.


When KQED went on the air in 1954, it was one of a handful of stations in a new field referred to as the "educational TV movement." Conceived initially as a teaching tool, the station quickly broadened its scope to include entertainment and public affairs programming - designed to appeal, above all, to a viewer's intelligence.
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From the start, and throughout the '50s and '60s, KQED was one of public television's torchbearers, drawing its vitality from the cultural renaissance going on in the Bay Area and from a dedicated, visionary corps of pioneers, both paid and volunteer.
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Thriving on controversy, the young station made a name for itself by airing the famous Teller-Pauling debate on nuclear fallout, as well as inquiries into homosexuality, racial prejudice, Communism, and the link between smoking and cancer. Perpetually short on funds, KQED originated the idea of selling memberships, staging an annual Auction and developing other fundraising methods that became widespread throughout public TV. During the 1968 San Francisco newspaper strike, it founded Newspaper of the Air (later to become Newsroom), public TV's first daily news program.
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Much of public TV's essence today derives from the way KQED grappled, in its early years, with such questions as: Can a station support itself through viewer contributions alone? Does corporate underwriting compromise a station's independence? What, precisely, is public television, and who is its audience?
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With your generous support, we strive to continue our pioneering service to the Bay Area community and to public television around the country.
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2000 and Beyond

KQED prepares for digital conversion of television and radio.
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A special thanks to Jay Yamada, longtime KQED volunteer and former Board member, for use of his Chronological History of KQED 40th Anniversary Edition, 50th Anniversary Edition, and archival photograph collection.

Also on this week ...

The Genius of Marie Curie
KQED Celebrates Women's History Month

KQED proudly celebrates the richness and diversity of the greater San Francisco Bay Area by commemorating Women's History Month. In March, KQED Public TV 9 and Public Radio 88.5 FM schedule a special lineup of programs focused on themes and issues related to women.

Yo Yo Ma
"Boomtown" History of the San Francisco Bay Area

KQED's "Boomtown" series will seek to identify what is happening in real time in the current boom, and also draw out the causes and possible solutions to the conflicts and pressures between the old and the new.

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