WKLE Kentucky Educational Television (also known as KET: The Kentucky Network, or simply KET) is a state network of PBS member television stations serving the U.S. Commonwealth of Kentucky. It is owned and operated by the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television, which holds the licenses for almost all of the PBS member stations licensed in the state with the exception of WKYU-TV (channel 24) in Bowling Green. KET is the largest PBS state network in the United States; the broadcast signals of its sixteen stations cover almost all of the state, as well as parts of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
The network's offices, network center and primary studio facilities are located at the O. Leonard Press Telecommunications Center on Cooper Drive in Lexington, adjacent to the campus of the University of Kentucky (KET has no other direct affiliation with the university). KET also has production centers in Louisville as well as at the Kentucky State Capitol Annex in Frankfort. KET carries national programming from PBS and American Public Television along with a wide range of local programming, basic skills and workplace education.
Creation of the network
KET was founded by O. Leonard Press, a member of the University of Kentucky faculty, who was a pioneer in educational broadcasting. Before coming to the university, Press had developed the weekly broadcast from the National Press Club, which has aired for over half a century. In the mid-1950s, he taped a popular anthropology course, and the response to the telecourses was positive enough for Press and two of his colleagues to consider founding an educational television station at UK. This was a natural choice given UK's history in educational broadcasting. UK had been involved in broadcasting in one form or another since 1921, and operated WBKY (now WUKY), the nation's oldest educational radio station on the FM dial.
This drive failed, but Press and his colleagues decided to set their sights higher and make a bid for a statewide educational television network along the lines of Alabama Educational Television (now Alabama Public Television). At the time, the only educational station in Kentucky was WFPK-TV (channel 15, now KET outlet WKPC-TV) in Louisville, which signed on the air on September 8, 1958. Before KET signed on, the only other areas of Kentucky that received a clear signal from an educational television station were Northern Kentucky (from WCET in Cincinnati), the Jackson Purchase (from WSIU-TV in Carbondale, Illinois), and certain areas of South Central Kentucky near the Tennessee state line (from WDCN, now WNPT, in Nashville, Tennessee).
The idea gained little momentum until 1959, when Press addressed the local Rotary Club in the state capital of Frankfort and a story about it appeared in The Courier-Journal newspaper. After landing support from UK officials, what was supposed to be a short meeting with Governor Bert T. Combs turned into a proposal to start the state network. The Kentucky Authority for Educational Television was created in 1962 with Press serving as its executive director.
The project made little progress until 1965 when Ashland Oil founder Paul G. Blazer personally acquired the first thirteen transmitter sites and then gifted the sites to the authority. Ownership of the sites led to KET's expanded inclusion in the state budget and eligibility for HEW and Appalachian Regional Commission grants.
First years on air (1968–1989)
KET finally went on the air for the first time at precisely 3:00 PM Eastern time (2:00 PM Central time). The first broadcast started with Governor Louie B. Nunn speaking at the network's dedication ceremony that marked the network's first day on the air. Nunn himself pressed the button to officially put the network on the air. The ten charter stations of the network were flagship station WKLE/Lexington, along with WKAS/Ashland, WKGB-TV/Bowling Green, WKZT-TV/Elizabethtown, WKHA/Hazard, WKMA-TV/Madisonville, WKMR/Morehead, WKON/Owenton, WKPI-TV/Pikeville, and WKSO-TV/Somerset. Over the next 13 years after the network's sign-on, five more full-power stations were added to the network:
- WKMU in Murray joined the network 16 days after the network's inception.
- WCVN-TV of Covington was signed on to be part of the network in September 1969 to serve the Cincinnati, Ohio area and Kentucky's northernmost counties..
- In Louisville, KET signed on WKMJ-TV on September 2, 1970 to provide the Louisville area its second educational television station alongside its then-standalone WFPK-TV (now WKPC-TV).
- In 1978, WKPD of Paducah was converted to a KET station after seven years of broadcasting as commercial independent station WDXR-TV. This was done so KET can reach areas of the Jackson Purchase area that Murray's WKMU could not reach. Until that time, WSIU-TV in Carbondale, Illinois was the default PBS station.
- In the Owensboro/Henderson area, WNIN-TV/Evansville, Indiana was the default educational television station from its 1970 inception until March 1, 1979, when KET signed on WKOH to expand the network's reach into that area, due to WKMA's signal not being strong enough to completely cover the Owensboro area. This also brings a second educational station to become available to the Evansville media market.
Before joining PBS in 1970, KET was a member of its predecessor, National Educational Television, for its first two years of operation, broadcasting some of that network's programs. The first instructional television (ITV) program produced by KET was Kentucky is My Land, which premiered in 1969. Originally operating only during school hours, within a year it had acquired enough support to begin broadcasting its programming during the evening as well. By 1975, it was showing programming seven days a week. The network began nightly coverage of the Kentucky General Assembly in 1978.
The KET Fund for Excellence, one of the network's sources of funding is established in 1981. Other sources of funding outside of grants include those raised by the Friends of KET (established in 1971), The Commonweahth Fund for KET (since 1995), as well as their annual Telethons, which typically airs in late February/early March since 1974. In 1982, KET Enterprises is created as a syndication arm of KET to develop, acquire and distribute educational programs nationally to and from other PBS affiliated networks.
Star Channels and distance learning
From 1988 through the 1990s and early 2000s, KET's Star Channels satellite network brought hundreds of hours of instructional programming and professional development seminars to schools all over Kentucky. The Star Channels received the national Innovations Award from the Ford Foundation in 1991. KET Star Channels 703 and 704 were eventually converted into satellite-exclusive television channels that were entirely different from the over-the-air KET schedule, similar to those of KET3 and KET4 when they were launched in the early 2000s. Star Channels 703 and 704 were also available to Ku-band free-to-air satellite television users.
Creation of a second service
On May 30, 1997, the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television acquired the license for Louisville's then-standalone WKPC-TV from locally based Fifteen Telecommunications, Inc. The FCC approved the sale three days later, on June 2. KET's statewide schedule moved to WKPC from the network's original station, WKMJ-TV on July 1. WKMJ went silent on that day for an upgrade on its transmitter. Its August 1997 return to the air marked the launch of KET's second service, KET2, which was intentionally made to be tailored to the Louisville metropolitan area.
Kentucky's first digital television station
WKPC-TV's digital signal, WKPC-DT, was the first KET affiliate to broadcast in digital, and Kentucky's first digital television station. On August 19, 1999, that station's digital signal was turned on by then-Kentucky governor Paul E. Patton as part of the opening day festivities of the Kentucky State Fair.
Full Power Stations
|Call signs||Location||CH||First Air Date|
|WKLE||Lexington, KY||46||September 23, 1968|
|WKAS||Ashland, KY||25||September 23, 1968|
|WKHA||Hazard, KY||35||September 23, 1968|
|WKZT||Elizabethtown, KY||23||September 23, 1968|
|WKGB||Bowling Green, KY||53||September 23, 1968|
|WKON||Owenton, KY||52||September 23, 1968|
|WKMA||Madisonville, KY||35||September 23, 1968|
|WKMR||Morehead, KY||38||September 23, 1968|
|WKPI||Pikeville, KY||22||September 23, 1968|
|WKSO||Somerset, KY||29||September 23, 1968|
|WKPC||Louisville, KY||15||September 8, 1958|
|WKMU||Murray, KY||21||October 9, 1968|
|WCVN||Covington, KY||54||September 8, 1969|
|WKPD||Paducah, KY||29||May 31, 1971|
|WKOH||Owensboro, KY||31||December 31, 1979|
|TV stations in Kentucky|
|Kentucky Educational Television:||Western Kentucky University:|
|WKLE, Lexington||WKYU, Bowling Green|
|WKGB, Bowling Green|
|TV stations in Central Kentucky Bluegrass region, including Lexington and Frankfort|
|WOBZ-LD 9 (BUZZR) |
W10BM 10 (AMGTV/WHT)
WLEX 18 (NBC)
WKYT 27 (CBS)
WKSO 29 (PBS)
WKHA 35 (PBS)
WTVQ 36 (ABC)
WKMR 38 (PBS)
WKLE 46 (PBS)
WVTN-LP 48 (Rel.)
WKON 52 (PBS)
WDKY 56 (Fox)
WYMT 57 (CBS)
WLJC 65 (Cozi)
WUPX 67 (Ion)
|TV stations in Kentuckiana, including Louisville|
|WAVE 3 (NBC) |
WLCU-CD 4 (Rel.)
W06AY-D 6 (Youtoo)
WHAS 11 (ABC)
WBXV-LP 13 (SBN)
WKPC 15 (PBS)
WWWJ-CD 16 (TBN)
WRLW-CD 17 (Heartland)
WBNA 21 (Ind.)
WKZT 23 (PBS)
WMYO-CD 24 (Laff)
WDYL-LD 28 (Daystar)
WLKY 32 (CBS)
WDRB 41 (Fox)
W50CI-D 50 (Buzzr)
WKMJ 68 (PBS)
|TV stations in Southeast Ohio, Western West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, including Huntington and Charleston|
|WSAZ 3 (NBC) |
WCHS 8 (ABC)
WVAH 11 (Decades)
WOWK 13 (CBS)
WKPI 22 (PBS)
WKAS 25 (PBS)
WHJC-LP 27 (RTV)
WLPX 29 (Ion)
W30DG-D 30 (HSN)
WQCW 30 (CW)
WVPB 33 (PBS)
WTSF 44 (Daystar)
WJOS-LD 45 (Walk)
WTZP-LP 50 (Cozi)
|TV stations in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky|
|WLWT 5 (NBC) |
WCPO 9 (ABC)
WKRC 12 (CBS)
WPTO 14 (PBS)
WBQC-LD 20/25 (Movies!/Cozi)
WDYC-LD 36 (Daystar)
WCET 48 (PBS)
WCVN 54 (PBS)
WSTR 64 (MNTV)
|TV stations in Illinois-Indiana-Kentucky tri-state area, including Evansville, IN and Owensboro, KY|
|WTVW 7 (CW) |
WNIN 9 (PBS)
WFIE 14 (NBC)
WYYW-CD 15 (TLM)
WJTS-CD 18 (Youtoo)
WTSN-CD 20 (H&I)
W23BV-D 23 (3ABN)
WEHT 25 (ABC)
WKOH 31 (PBS)
WKMA 35 (PBS)
WEIN-LD 40 (Cozi)
WEVV 44 (CBS)
|TV Stations in Southeast Missouri, Southern Illinois, Western Kentucky and Northwest Tennessee, including Paducah, Cape Girardeau and Harrisburg|
|Paducah, KY||Cape Girardeau, MO||Harrisburg/Carbondale, IL||Illinois||Missouri||Northwest Tennessee|
|WPSD 6 (NBC)||KFVS 12 (CBS)||WSIL 3 (ABC)||WPXS 13 (Daystar)||KPOB 15 (ABC)||WUWT-CD 26 (RTV)|
|WQTV-LP/WQWQ-LP 9/24 (CW)||KBSI 23 (Fox)||WSIU 8 (PBS)||KDKZ-LD 18 (AMGTV)|
|WKMU/WKPD 21/29 (PBS)||W15BU-D 15 (3ABN)||K39CP 39 (Ind.)|
|WDKA 49 (MNTV)||WTCT 27 (TCT)|
|TV stations in South Central Kentucky, including Bowling Green and Glasgow|
|WDNZ-LD 11 (ANTENNA) |
WBKO 13 (ABC)
W14DG-D 14 (Silent → ABC)
WKYU 24 (PBS)
WPBM-CD 31 (Rel.)
WCZU-LD 39 (ANTENNA/MNTV)
WNKY 40 (NBC)
WKGB 53 (PBS)