Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Beyond
In the early 1960s, Fred was briefly enticed to a public television job for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto, where he became an on-air performer for the first time. His work there, on Misterogers, helped shape and develop the concept and style of his later program for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the U.S.
But Fred and Joanne decided to come home to Pittsburgh and raise their two young sons there. Soon after he introduced Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, produced at WQED-Pittsburgh and initially broadcast regionally through the Eastern Educational Network, Fred began building an extraordinarily powerful audience of some national scope for his public television program. When WGBH in Boston held an open house for Fred Rogers and his crew in Boston, they expected about 500 people to attend. They were overwhelmed with 10,000 visitors lined up outside the station.
In 1968, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood became a national program seen on public television all across the U.S. By 1971, Fred had founded Family Communications, Inc., the production company that has managed his work ever since.
After a little more than a decade working in children’s television, Fred’s reputation as a champion of high standards—for children’s programming and for television in general—was well established. It was highlighted by his now-famous testimony before Congress in 1969, in which he brought flinty politicians and the rest of the audience to tears with his simple, genuine, and powerful plea for better television.
The result was a sharp jump in federal funding for PBS. But television continued then, as it does today, to produce astounding amounts of truly awful programming that research has found to be often damaging and degrading. Part of Fred’s plan for the Rogers Center was that it would continue his fight to advance the development and appropriate use of responsible media for young children.