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WETA-TV Founder Campbell Dead at 101

Elizabeth Campbell, 101, founder of noncommercial WETA-TV Washington, D.C., and a pioneer in public broadcasting, died of a respiratory ailment Jan. 9 in an Arlington, Va., hospital.

As president of the Greater Washington Educational Television Association, Campbell, also a member of the Arlington County School Board, created the series Time for Science on then Metromedia-owned WTTG-TV Washington. Her goal was to garner support for a noncommercial station in Washington by showing broadcasters and potential funders that TV could be a successful and popular teaching tool.

It was. The show, which ran from 1958 to 1961 was a hit and helped pave the way for WETA-TV’s establishment in 1961 (WETA-FM was added in 1970).

WETA-TV went on the air Oct. 2 with a $75,000 grant for equipment and a pledge of $175,000 for the schools. WETA-TV’s language education, music and arts series became an integral part of many area classrooms.

The station grew to be one of the anchor programmers for PBS, with an operating budget of $60 million and boasting such co-production credits as Ken Burns’ Civil War, as well as NewsHour With Jim Lehrer and Washington Week in Review.

In 1971, Campbell became VP of community affairs for the station, a post she held until her death.

Among her honors were an Emmy in 1981 and CPB’s Ralph Lowell award.

Campbell is survived by a daughter, Virginia Holt; two sons, the Reverend Benjamin Campbell and Donald Campbell; eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

WETA-TV plans to air a tribute to Campbell at 8 p.m. on Jan. 14.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.