Biographical / Historical
The National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB) was founded in 1925 as the Association of College and University Broadcast Stations (ACUBS). Its mission was “to advance, by united effort and mutual cooperation... the end that the educational, cultural, and technical benefits of electronic communications may be extended to all,” according to a statement issued by the organization in 1934.
At its inception, ACUBS’ membership consisted of institutions that owned or operated an educational radio station. These founding institutions included the State University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin, Iowa State University, the Ohio State University, and the University of Illinois. Representatives from these and other educational institutions gathered for the first time at the 1925 National Radio Conference in Washington, D.C.
Later, ACUBS broadened its membership criteria to include any college or university that produced radio programs, whether for its own educational radio facility or for a nearby commercial station. This policy change prompted the organization to rename itself the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB) in 1934.
During that same year, the Communications Act established the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and a new framework for the regulation of broadcasting. A priority for the newly-formed FCC was to consider reserving portions of the AM, and later FM, broadcast bands for non-commercial, educational purposes. No such frequency reservation was made by the FCC, however, until 1945.
Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, NAEB membership remained at about 25 stations nationwide. By 1948, however, membership grew to over 100 stations, and to over 200 by 1954. The NAEB’s programming distribution service was, in large part, responsible for attracting new members. In 1949, the “bicycle network” — a system of tape-recorded program exchanges — began, and in 1951 the Kellogg Foundation provided the NAEB with a grant of $245,000 to establish the network’s first permanent headquarters, in the basement of Gregory Hall at the University of Illinois in Urbana.
From 1951 until 1960, the NAEB duplicated and shipped tape-recorded programs from its University of Illinois home. In 1960, the NAEB moved its headquarters to 1346 Connecticut Ave., N.W., in Washington, D.C., where it remained for about 20 years.
Passage of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 introduced federal funding of public broadcasting and led to a fundamental restructuring of educational radio and television in the United States. By 1971, the newly-formed National Public Radio assumed much of the NAEB’s program production and distribution services. As a result, the NAEB’s radio service — the National Educational Radio Network — ceased operations. (A similar change occurred in 1969 when the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) supplanted National Educational Television.) The NAEB, in its final years, shifted its role from program distributor to professional society. It closed its offices about 1980.
Many of the institutions that comprise public broadcasting today-the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NPR, and PBS-grew from the earlier efforts of the NAEB. The concept of reserved television channels and FM frequencies for educational, non-commerical use can also be traced to NAEB's advocacy during the 1930s and 1940s.