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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

 

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Last updated:  03 - 28 - 2014