NET was established in 1954 as the Educational Television and Radio Center by the Ford Foundation to act as a distributor to non-profit and educational television stations in the US.
In 1958 the organisation moved to New York and was renamed the National Educational Television and Radio Center.
In 1962, the Ford Foundation’s funding was replaced by direct grants from the US federal government. The NETRC was renamed to National Educational Television in 1964.
In 1967, President Lyndon B Johnson created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to fund the network. In 1969, the CPB decided to encourage non-profit stations to form a new organisation, the Public Broadcasting Service, PBS, and to stop funding NET directly. NET continued to provide programming until it merged with WNDT to become WNET in New York and the PBS network formally launched in 1970 with WNET as a member station and content provider.