National Educational Television (NET) was a non-profit public broadcasting television (and until 1963, radio) service and educational program distributor in the United States. NET was established in November 1952 as the Educational Television and Radio Center and operated as a network from May 16, 1954 until October 4, 1970, when it was replaced by educational network PBS. It was affiliated with the National Educational Radio Network (the forerunner of National Public Radio) through the Ford Foundation, a private foundation established in 1936 by Edsel and Henry Ford. Each NET affiliate station was/is owned independently but they shared programming and funding and showed similar programs.
NET, like its successor PBS, was accused of aiming its broadcasts toward wealthy, elitist segments of the American population while neglecting others, who nonetheless paid for the programming. It initially launched children's programs Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street (both of which later moved to PBS), but it was best known for its production of controversial documentary and news programs such as NET Journal and Public Broadcast Laboratory, which drew much criticism for their liberal/left-wing slants; a number of NET affiliates refused to carry those programs for that reason. NET also imported programs from production companies and state-owned public broadcasters in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, the USSR, Yugoslavia, France, Italy and West Germany.
NET was shut down by its co-owners, the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, on October 4, 1970 as a result of the network's continued production of its heavily criticized news/documentary shows, with both entities threatening to cut their funding to NET unless it merged its operations with those of New York City educational station WNDT (now WNET). PBS launched network operations the following day on October 5 after the NET/WNET merger took effect and NET ceased operations as a separate network, although NET-branded programming produced by WNET continued for another two years until the NET brand was finally retired in 1972, bringing the NET era to an official end.