WETA with two red ribbons
BrandingWETA PBS
OwnerGreater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association
First air date
October 2, 1961 (62 years ago) (1961-10-02)[1]
Former channel number(s)
  • Analog: 26 (UHF, 1961–2009)
  • Digital: 27 (UHF, 1998–2019)
  • NET (1961–1970)
Call sign meaning
Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association
Technical information[2]
Licensing authority
Facility ID65670
ERP1,000 kW
HAAT257 m (843 ft)
Transmitter coordinates38°57′1″N 77°4′46″W / 38.95028°N 77.07944°W / 38.95028; -77.07944
Public license information

WETA-TV (channel 26) is the primary PBS member television station in Washington, D.C. Owned by the Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association, it is a sister station to NPR member WETA (90.9 FM). The two outlets share studios in nearby Arlington, Virginia;[3] WETA-TV's transmitter is located in the Tenleytown neighborhood in Northwest Washington.

Among the programs produced by WETA-TV that are distributed nationally by PBS are the PBS NewsHour, Washington Week,[4] and several cultural and documentary programs, such as the Ken Burns documentaries[5] and A Capitol Fourth.


WETA logo used from 1997 until 2022

In 1952, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocated 242 channels for non-commercial use across the United States; channel 26 was allocated for use in Washington, D.C.[6] In 1953, the Greater Washington Educational Television Association (GWETA) was formed to file for a channel 26 construction permit, joining the D.C. Board of Education.[7] The Board of Education would drop its bid in 1954.[8] GWETA credits Elizabeth Campbell with having founded the organization.[9] In the early days, before it was granted a license for its own channel, GWETA produced educational programming for WMAL-TV and WTTG.[10][11]

An application was finally filed on May 3, 1961, and approved on June 12, for a construction permit for the channel.[12] GWETA was eventually granted a license by the FCC to activate channel 26; WETA-TV first signed on the air on October 2, 1961, with the first televised class being aired on October 16.[13] WETA originally operated out of Yorktown High School in Arlington;[13] the station later relocated its operations to the campus of Howard University in 1964.[12] Rapid growth led a station that had been described as having "a rough time meeting the monthly bills" in 1963[14] to even pursue thoughts of a second channel in 1965.[15] In 1967, WETA began producing Washington Week in Review (now simply titled Washington Week), a political discussion program that became the station's first program to be syndicated nationally to other non-commercial educational stations and is now the network's longest-running public affairs program.[16]

Around 1970, the Greater Washington Educational Television Association changed its name to the Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association to reflect the oversight of the new WETA (FM). In 1971, the station begin producing shows for the newly-formed National Public Affairs Broadcast Center (later National Public Affairs Center for Television), a group led by PBS for its news programming.[17][18] In 1972, the producing organization National Public Affairs Center for Television merged into WETA.[19][20] In 1992, WETA broadcast the first publicized over-the-air high-definition television signal in the United States.[21] In 1995, WETA acquired CapAccess, an interactive computer network. From that acquisition, WETA helped connect public schools, public libraries and local government agencies to the Internet.[22]

In 1996, WETA launched its first national educational project, LD Online, a website that seeks to help children and adults reach their full potential by providing accurate and up-to-date information and advice about learning disabilities and ADHD. It was joined in 2001 by Reading Rockets, a multimedia project offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help. In 2003, Reading Rockets spun off Colorín Colorado, a free web-based service that provides information, activities, and advice for educators, and Spanish-speaking families of English language learners (ELLs).[23] To support the parents and educators of older students who struggle with reading, WETA launched Adlit.org in 2007. AdLit.org is a multimedia educational initiative offering research (articles, instructional strategies, school-based outreach events, professional development webcasts, and book recommendation) to develop teens' literacy skills, prevent school dropouts, and prepare students for the demands of college.[24] Seeing a need to educate the public about brain injuries, in 2008 WETA, in partnership with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, launched BrainLine.org. The site features videos, webcasts, recent research, personal stories, and articles on preventing, treating, and living with traumatic brain injuries.[25]

In 1997, WETA tested its new full-power digital transmitter by broadcasting the first-ever high definition telecast of a live Major League Baseball game to the National Press Club; the digital facility was activated for full-time broadcasting in November 1998.[26]

With the national closure of the PBS Kids network in 2005, WETA did not become a PBS Kids Sprout partner.[27] By April 2006, the station had added World programming to a subchannel prior to its January 2007 launch as a nationwide network.[28] In 2007, WETA started broadcasting a children's channel branded under the name WETA Kids. By February 2009, WETA only aired a daily three-hour children's morning block on its primary channel, clearing the afternoon for general audience programs like Charlie Rose, travel shows, repeats of the previous night's prime time shows, movies, documentaries, and miniseries.[27]

WETA decided to drop Create due to the network moving to being fee-based on July 1, 2012, and perceived lack of programming flexibility. WETA How-To lifestyle programming replaced Create in January 2012. How-To was replaced by WETA UK on July 4, 2012, after an analysis of audience and local viewers' demand for British programs.[29]

Technical information


The station's signal is multiplexed:

Subchannels of WETA-TV[30][31]
Channel Res. Aspect Short name Programming
26.1 720p 16:9 WETA-HD Main WETA-TV programming / PBS
26.3 480i KIDS PBS Kids
26.4 WORLD World
26.5 720p METRO WETA Metro

Channel 26.2, "WETA UK", is a subchannel programmed in-house with a schedule of shows produced in the United Kingdom. Channel 26.5, "WETA Metro", is also produced in-house and focuses on timeshifted rebroadcasts of news programming and reruns that interest a local audience.

Analog-to-digital conversion

WETA-TV shut down its analog signal, on UHF channel 26, on June 12, 2009, the official date on which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal continued to broadcasts on its pre-transition UHF channel 27,[32] using virtual channel 26.


  1. ^ "WETA's First Broadcast". Washington, DC: Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  2. ^ "Facility Technical Data for WETA-TV". Licensing and Management System. Federal Communications Commission.
  3. ^ "Television Studios". Washington, DC: Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  4. ^ "Ongoing Productions". Washington, DC: Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  5. ^ "Ken Burns". Washington, DC: Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  6. ^ "Second D. C. Group Proposes Filing for Reserved Ch. 26" (PDF). Broadcasting. March 23, 1953. p. 76. Retrieved January 25, 2021 – via World Radio History.
  7. ^ "Educational TV Group Is Organized". Washington Post. March 21, 1953. p. 13.
  8. ^ Rogers, Jeanne (February 18, 1954). "Lack Of Federal Assistance Cited; Field Is Cleared For Co-op Video". Washington Post. p. 25.
  9. ^ "Our Founder". Washington, DC: Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  10. ^ "Education TV Group Plans 13 Programs". Washington Post. December 10, 1954. p. 29.
  11. ^ Knoll, Erwin (September 23, 1958). "Thousands View First TV School Science Lesson". Washington Post. p. B1.
  12. ^ a b FCC History Cards for WETA-TV
  13. ^ a b Bowie, Carole (October 17, 1961). "Classroom TV Makes Debut; Result: Comme Ci, Comme Ca". Washington Post. p. B1.
  14. ^ "Educational TV: what it is, where it's going". Changing Times. Vol. 16, no. 2. February 1963. pp. 38–46.
  15. ^ "D.C. ETV wants second channel" (PDF). Broadcasting. January 4, 1965. p. 41. Retrieved January 25, 2021 – via World Radio History.
  16. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (July 20, 2005). "Paul Duke, a Moderator on Public TV, Dies at 78". New York Times. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  17. ^ "Public broadcasting gets it together" (PDF). Broadcasting Magazine. August 30, 1971. p. 46. Retrieved July 15, 2023.
  18. ^ "NPACT hires former NBC newsman" (PDF). Broadcasting Magazine. September 27, 1971. p. 38. Retrieved July 15, 2023.
  19. ^ "Public Affairs Center and Capital's WETA to Join (Published 1972)". The New York Times. April 5, 1972. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  20. ^ "NPACT, Washington's WETA-TV to merge". Broadcasting Magazine. April 10, 1972. p. 42.
  21. ^ Burgess, John (March 24, 1992). "Tuning In to a Trophy Technology". Washington Post. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  22. ^ Swisher, Kara (September 21, 1995). "WETA TO MANAGE CAPACCESS AREA COMPUTER NETWORK". Washington Post. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  23. ^ ""Colorin Colorado" helps Hispanic parents encourage their children to read". eSchool News. October 22, 2003. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  24. ^ Kopf, David (November 8, 2007). "AdLit.org Debuts To Help Struggling Adolescents Read, Write". THE Journal. Retrieved January 24, 2021.
  25. ^ "BrainLine.org Confronts Traumatic Brain Injury Crisis" (PDF).
  26. ^ Moore, Scott (January 29, 1999). "Up in the Air – The High-Definition Deficit". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 25, 2021.
  27. ^ a b Katy June-Friesen (January 12, 2009). "Many stations packaging their own kids' channels". Originally published in Current. Archived from the original on April 16, 2016. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  28. ^ Egner, Jeremy (April 3, 2006). "World and Go! streams flow into PBS plans". Current. Archived from the original on April 25, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  29. ^ Sefton, Dru (June 11, 2012). "Multicasts tailored to local priorities". Current. American University SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATION. Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  30. ^ "Channel Guide: TV". WETA-TV. Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  31. ^ "RabbitEars.Info". www.rabbitears.info. Retrieved January 24, 2024.
  32. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved March 24, 2012.