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WETA History

WETA’s public service began 50 years ago when a group of visionaries led by Washington publisher Willard Kiplinger and former college dean and Arlington School Board Chairman Elizabeth Campbell secured a license from the FCC and launched WETA Channel 26 on October 2, 1961. Since then, WETA has steadily expanded its public service — but its mission remains fundamentally the same. WETA is committed to presenting educational programming for children and to providing opportunities for lifelong learning for all who seek enrichment, inspiration and information.

Learn more about WETA's history with the retrospective features below.


Interactive Timeline

WETA Camera Drawing

Enjoy this step through time charting WETA's history from its founding in the 1950s as an educational television station, the addition of a public radio station, and evolution into a major national producer for PBS.

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Our First Broadcast

A New Era

WETA Channel 26 hit the Washington airwaves on October 2, 1961, when station manager George Baker introduced viewers to WETA's inaugural broadcast, The New Era.

Watch our first broadcast, "The New Era" →

WETA’S Founding & Elizabeth Campbell

Elizabeth P. Campbell

After an eight-year effort by a committed group of public television pioneers, longtime Arlingtonian Elizabeth P. Campbell and Washington publisher Willard Kiplinger brought WETA on the air in 1961. Campbell would guide the institution for more than 40 years. Learn more about the history of WETA.

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Remembering Gwen Ifill

Remembering Gwen Ifill

We remember our friend and colleague and her nearly 40-year career as a newspaper and television journalist.

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Ward Chamberlin

Ward Chamberlin, former president and CEO of WETA. (Photo: Courtesy of WNET)

Ward Chamberlin served as President and CEO of WETA for fourteen years, from 1975 until 1989, and then as the Vice Chairman of our Board of Trustees until 1994.

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WETA 50th Anniversary Photo Montage

WETA 50th Anniversary Photo Montage

Take a look back at WETA's first 50 years with this musical photo montage highlighting some of the top moments and personalities in our history. Thanks to our viewers and listeners for making everything possible!

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