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A Brief History of AETN

The Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) has grown since sign-on in December 1966 – from a single station, KETS / channel 2, to a statewide network broadcasting through six stations around Arkansas.

The history of AETN actually can be traced back a few additional years to the creation of the Arkansas Educational Television Commission in 1961, following a two-year legislative study to assess the state’s need for educational television. Enacting legislation in March 1961 created AETN to “provide instructional, educational television for schools and the general public … and to help with the preservation of the public peace, health and safety.” It was believed at that time (as stated in the enacting legislation) that the “young people of the state …are the chief objects of brainwashing operations engineered by the minions of totalitarianism” and that “counter-measures to such subversive influences are necessary to the continued existence of constitutional democracy.” Yes, AETN was established in part to help stop Communism in Arkansas.

In the early years, KETS was associated with National Educational Television, the forerunner of the current Public Broadcasting Service. The early days saw black-and-white broadcasting only, with color capabilities being achieved in 1972.

Limited hours of operation focused primarily on instructional programming for use in Arkansas classrooms. Through those first dozen years, AETN’s service grew to include several more hours a day of public programming. The network also expanded from Monday-through-Friday service to include weekend broadcasts.

In the early years, programs reached the Conway broadcast center and production studios by either telephone lines or “bicycling” (physically mailing programs between stations throughout the country).

After ten years of operation as a single station, AETN became a true network with the addition of three transmitters: KAFT-13 / Fayetteville and KETG-9 / Arkadelphia in 1976, as well as KTEJ-19 / Jonesboro in 1977. AETN added KEMV-6 / Mountain View in 1980. To supply all transmitters with a simultaneous broadcast signal, AETN created a ten-site microwave interconnection system.

As technology developed, PBS became the first entity in the world to deliver its programming by satellite transmission. Since 1978, AETN has received the majority of its public programs and a great many instructional programs by satellite.

Since 1971, AETN local productions and services designed specifically to help Arkansans with life-long learning have received more than 400 regional, national and international awards.  To date, AETN has received forty (40) total Regional EMMY nominations with fourteen (14) of these receiving the coveted Regional EMMY award. 

Staff size has grown from an initial core of 30 people to more than 110 full-time state employees. Adding the 501(c)3 non-profit AETN Foundation (created in 1984 to replace the Friends of AETN that started in 1976 to assist the state-owned network in it's funding needs), there are about 120 full-time employees working to serve the people of Arkansas with non-commercial, educational, entertaining television.

AETN’s broadcast center and production studios are still located in Conway on land leased from the University of Central Arkansas.  AETN is licensed to the State of Arkansas. An eight-member, governor-appointed Arkansas Educational Television Commission is the governing body for the state network and serve a seven-year term. Commissioners are appointed as representatives of public school education, higher education, the four U.S. congressional districts, women, and minorities. The Commission regularly meets on a quarterly basis with occasional additional meetings as needed.

During the mid-1990s, AETN began providing distance learning via broadcast, satellite, the Internet and compressed interactive video. This allows for easier, cost-effective and standardized educational professional development as well as equal access for students to a wide variety of courses.

In the late-1990s, AETN began a major building expansion to its Conway facilities in preparation for the required transition from analog broadcast to digital broadcast. With this building expansion finished by the end of the decade, AETN now has four (4) production studios, a state-of-the-art technical broadcast center, an educational center and offices for a growing staff of dedicated employees to provide increased programs and services for Arkansas. On June 11, 2004, in addition to its 32-year history of analog broadcasting, AETN began broadcasting in digital on KAFT-DT, KEMV-DT, KETG-DT, KETS-DT and KTEJ-DT. On May 17, 2006, AETN added a sixth digital transmitter and three microwave interconnection sites to its network when KETZ-DT / El Dorado began broadcast.

During 2006, AETN strengthened its partnership with the Arkansas Department of Education by expanding its work in developing ArkansasIDEAS to help provide standardized, high quality professional development for educators of Arkansas. This venture greatly expands AETN’s long-time work in helping with educational needs of Arkansas.

In 2009, AETN terminated all analog broadcast as part of the national digital transition, but continues to serve Arkansas with six digital broadcast transmitters around the state.

In these early years of the 21st century, AETN has refocused its attention to its core mission – education – with increased efforts to expand programs and services to meet the state’s educational needs. AETN is no longer just a television station serving Arkansas through a single broadcast service. AETN has become a nationally-recognized telecommunications network providing a wide range of award-winning productions and high-quality educational services through multiple-delivery means to meet the ever-growing needs of Arkansans.

 

AETN Historic Milestones

 

1954: 

  • The Arkansas Educational Television Association (AETA) is incorporated on June 4 as a voluntary association to “furnish non-profit and non-commercial educational television broadcast service to the State of Arkansas”.

1961:

  • The General Assembly of the Arkansas Legislature passes Act 198, which creates the Arkansas Educational Television Commission (ETV Commission) laying the foundation for what will become AETN. (Former State Senator R. Lee Reaves is appointed the first Executive Director two years later.)

1965:

  • State capital funds are made available for construction of Arkansas' first educational television station, KETS/Channel 2.

1966:

  • On December 16, KETS/Channel 2 – licensed to Little Rock by the FCC – begins broadcast as Arkansas' first educational television station. (KETS began as a black and white transmitter, later being adapted to broadcast color programs.)

1976:

  • On October 29, KETS is joined by its first sister station – KETG/Channel 9 to service southwest Arkansas. Less than two months later on December 9, KAFT/Channel 13 begins service to northwest Arkansas. And a month later on January 13, 1977, KTEJ/Channel 19 begins service to northeast Arkansas creating what is to become the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN).

1980:

  • On June 21, the fifth sister station, KEMV/Channel 6, joins the AETN system to provide service to north-central Arkansas. Along with cable carriage, AETN's coverage is now expanded to over 90% of the state of Arkansas.

1984:

  • The AETN Foundation is created to conduct all fundraising for AETN. The Foundation Board is made up of the eight ETV Commissioners and seven at-large elected lay members. The Friends of AETN becomes the volunteer and public relations support organization for AETN.
  • "Arkansas Week" debuts on AETN to provide the state's only primetime, in-depth public affairs program about issues affecting Arkansas.
  • AETN partners with the Arkansas Division of Services for the Blind to broadcast the Arkansas Radio Reading Service for the Blind as AETN’s second audio channel (SAP) to provide the reading of newspapers and information to blind citizens.

1995:

  • AETN adds an extension to the existing building to provide storage space, tape library and office space.
  • AETN adds a third over-night feed of ITV programs for schools. This allows AETN to replace the daytime feed of ITV programs with more pre-school programming as part of the Ready to Learn initiative from PBS.
  • AETN is awarded its first Regional EMMY for "Edge of Conflict: Arkansas in the Civil War".

1997:

  • AETN presents an appeal in a civil case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The precedent-setting case involves whether AETN is primarily a broadcaster with journalistic First Amendment rights to limit televised debates versus a state agency restricted to providing free access to candidates. AETN eventually wins its landmark appeal.

1998:

  • AETN’s monthly hunting, fishing and outdoors series, "Arkansas Outdoors", is distributed internationally. AETN’s documentary "The Lost Squadron" is awarded a Regional EMMY award.
  • AETN breaks ground and begins construction of a major building expansion, which will greatly expand AETN’s broadcast studios and is financed by the state legislature and governor.

1999:

  • AETN produces "Aging Successfully with Doctor David", AETN’s first full-length series in partnership with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The series goes national.

2000:

  • AETN receives its third Regional EMMY award – this time for "Precious Memories: Our Vanishing Rural Churches".

2001:

  • AETN completes construction on a major building expansion more than doubling its existing space. This new complex prepares AETN for the ability to provide expanded services to Arkansas through digital broadcasting. 
  • AETN begins the conversion to digital as mandated by the FCC. Phase One will be the complete replacement of the Microwave Interconnection System. Phase Two will be the replacement of five transmitters and broadcast operations. Phase Three will be the replacement of all production equipment. Phase One and Two are to be completed by November 2003 as required by the FCC. Phase Three will be completed as funds are made available – one or two years later.

2002:

  • AETN receives its fourth Regional EMMY award for "The Sound of Dreams".

2003:

  • AETN completes Phase One – the complete replacement of the analog Microwave Interconnection System – of its digital conversion plan. Phase Two – the replacement of five analog transmitters and analog broadcast operations – and Phase Three – the replacement of all analog production equipment – to be completed by May 2004 for AETN to begin its digital broadcast.
  • AETN receives its fifth Regional EMMY award for "The Forgotten Expedition" - the story of the other "Lewis and Clark" team to explore the southern part of the Louisiana Purchase.
  • AETN, in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Education, began providing Instructional Videostreaming to help schools statewide with state approved curriculum, offering more than 20,000 video segments in a wide range of subjects complete with interactive support materials and teacher guides.

2004:

  • AETN completes its initial $12 million digital conversion project and begins broadcasting on June 11 on digital channels:
    • KAFT-DT/Fayetteville (serving northwest Arkansas)
    • KEMV-DT/Mountain View (serving north central Arkansas)
    • KETG-DT/Arkadelphia (serving southwest Arkansas)
    • KETS-DT/Little Rock (serving central Arkansas)
    • KTEJ-DT/Jonesboro (serving northeast Arkansas)

2005:

  • AETN moves to multicasting of four separate programs on its digital channels. In addition to replicating the analog program signal as one of the four multicast program streams, AETN creates three additional program streams:
    • AETN Scholar (to provide instructional programming and professional development to schools and educators)
    • AETN Kids (non-commercial, educational children’s programs different from the regular AETN program schedule) 
    • Create (lifelong learning lifestyle, how-to general audience programs).

2006:

  • On May 17, 2006, AETN begins broadcasting on KETZ-DT/El Dorado to serve south and southeast Arkansas as well as north central Louisiana.
  • AETN launches "ArkansasIDEAS" – Arkansas Internet Delivered Education for Arkansas Schools – to provide high-quality, standards-based, professional development offerings, online programming, and instructional resources to Arkansas K-12 educators.
  • AETN celebrates 40 years of service to the people of Arkansas.

2007:

  • AETN receives its sixth Regional EMMY award for the documentary "Charles Banks Wilson".
  • AETN creates "In Their Words" – an oral history for television and the Internet that records the experiences of Arkansas WWII veterans for future study. Eventually, more than 500 stories are recorded and archived for posterity.

2008:

  • On January 11, the KETS analog 2 antenna and transmitter is destroyed when the KATV-7 broadcast tower that held KETS equipment since 1966 collapses during maintenance. By summer a temporary, emergency, low-power antenna and transmitter is finally installed and limited broadcast in central Arkansas resumes. The KETS digital broadcast is not affected during this time.
  • AETN begins work to change the digital broadcast frequencies of KETS and KETZ to allow for increased power and coverage areas in central and southeast Arkansas after the national termination of analog broadcast.
  • "Arkansas Week", AETN’s premier weekly public affairs program, celebrates 25 years of service.
  • AETN begins regularly podcasting and videostreaming local productions using the newest technology available.
  • AETN is named a best mid-sized workplace in Arkansas for 2008 for the first time by the Governor’s Work-Life Balance Awards Program.
  • AETN is recognized as a national Psychologically Healthy Workplace by the American Psychology Association.

2009:

  • Like most television broadcasters around the country, AETN is forced to delay the termination of its analog broadcasts when Congress delays the analog shut-down date by four months. Because of work to complete the change in broadcast frequencies, KETS (analog and digital) and KETZ are forced to remain off the air for four additional months. AETN was able to serve about 60% of central Arkansas through direct fiber connection or alternative reception by many cable companies and DishNetwork during that time.
  • AETN terminates the analog broadcast at KTEJ/Jonesboro and reduces the analog broadcast at KEMV/Mountain View when old equipment fails to operate after loss of power due to massive ice storms in those areas.
  • AETN begins 24-7 broadcast in High Definition (HD) digital in January. This requires the combining of the Create and AETN Kids channels into one service along with AETN Scholar as two Standard Definition (SD) services. The Arkansas Information Reading Service for the Blind is added as an audio-only channel as the analog SAP channel goes away.
  • AETN is named a best mid-sized workplace in Arkansas for 2009 for the 2nd consecutive year by the Governor’s Work-Life Balance Awards Program.
  • On June 12, AETN's remaining analog stations (KAFT, KEMV, and KETG) are shutdown as analog broadcast in the U.S.A. comes to an end. Work immediately begins to maximize broadcast power at these three digital stations along with KTEJ.
  • AETN receives its seventh and eighth Regional EMMY awards both for the documentary The Buffalo Flows, about the history and impact of the Buffalo River in Arkansas.

2010:

  • In late February 2010, AETN completes a maximization project that nearly doubles the broadcast power at the KAFT and KETG transmitters and in early June 2010 that nearly triples the broadcast power at KEMV.  Work continues on a similar project at KTEJ.
  • AETN is named a best mid-sized workplace in Arkansas for 2010 for the 3rd consecutive year by the Governor’s Work-Life Balance Awards Program.
  • AETN restructures its multicasting service to better meet the needs of Arkansans:
    • AETN-PBS on AETN-1 broadcasting in HD 24-7 the best of AETN local productions and PBS programming
    • AETN Create on AETN-2 (lifelong learning lifestyle and how-to general audience programs).
    • AETN PLUS on AETN-3 featuring three program blocks:
      • AETN Scholar (to provide instructional programming and professional development to schools and educators)
      • AETN Kids (non-commercial, educational children’s programs different from the regular AETN program schedule) 
      • AETN World (top documentary, non-fiction and public affairs programming).
    • AIRS - Arkansas Information Reading Service for the Blind audio-only service on AETN-4.
  • AETN receives its ninth, tenth and eleventh Regional EMMY awards all for Silent Storytellers, a documentary about old cemeteries throughout the state.
  • AETN is recognized again as a Psychologically Healthy Workplace by the Arkansas Psychology Association, this time as a state finalist.

2011:

  • In the late summer of 2011, AETN completes a maximization project that increases the broadcast power at the KTEJ transmitters by six times.
  • AETN upgrades its Master Control and Production Control facilities with digital monitors and HD equipment phasing out the decades-old analog technology
  • AETN is named a best mid-sized workplace in Arkansas for 2011 for the 4th consecutive year by the Governor's Work-Life Balance Awards Program.

2012:

  • On March 25, 2012 AETN lost its long-time, faithful volunteer - Mrs. Jane Krutz.  She was there to help turn on the first AETN transmitter in 1966, was a tireless advocate during on-air fundraising campaigns, speeches and even before a Congressional sub-committee, and was helping raise financial support for AETN programming right to the end of her life.  She had previously been honored with the naming of the Jane Krutz Studio A at AETN, where she spent so much of her time for 46 years. She will be forever missed.
  • AETN receives its twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth Regional EMMY awards all for the documentary Clean Lines, Open Spaces, about Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Arkansas.
  • AETN receives Ambassadors Awards from the Governor's Work-Life Awards Program as well as the Mature Workers Awards Program.

 2013:

  • AETN's first HD studio was created to produce in-studio local programs in High Definition.
  • AETN's thirty-plus year goal of having emergency back-up power generators at all transmitter sites was achieved thanks to a federal equipment grant.  Now, AETN's broadcast signal will not be lost for significant lengths of time due to a loss of electrical power during severe storms and inclement winter weather at these remote site.

 

Last updated:  03 - 28 - 2014