We’ve completed the first transmitter of our expansion project, and it’s just the beginning! With a five-transmitter expansion, Arkansas PBS will achieve near universal public television broadcast coverage in the state by the end of the year thanks to a $6.4 million from the Federal CARES Act COVID Fund awarded by the Arkansas CARES Act Steering Committee.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to have this opportunity to extend our airwaves to part or all of 31 counties that previously received a very weak or no signal – an increase from coverage of 76 percent of the state to 99.5 percent coverage!
The first transmitter near Russellville at Lee Mountain is now operating at full power, bringing Arkansas PBS into the homes of residents in Pope, Johnson, Logan and Yell Counties. We’re proud to better serve the cities of Russellville and Dardanelle and Natural State communities in the Arkansas River Valley from Clarksville to Atkins! The new service is a repeater from the Arkansas PBS primary transmitter in Little Rock and will be broadcast as KETS channel 2 when residents in the area scan for it on their televisions.
The Lee Mountain transmitter alone accounts for a 4.2 percent increase in Arkansas PBS coverage and will reaches an additional 124,289 Arkansans.
“The value of public media is its availability to all and, at Arkansas PBS, we provide a daily and essential service for Arkansas families, both urban and rural populations,” Arkansas PBS Executive Director and CEO Courtney Pledger said. “This vital CARES Act funding enables us to be a truly statewide network and better serve the many Arkansans who live in areas without broadband coverage, or who cannot afford cable, satellite or broadband – those most in need of our educational programming and services.”
Arkansas’s need for additional AR PBS transmitters was determined by a technical study that revealed our digital broadcast signal reached roughly 76 percent of Arkansas’s population. When schools were dismissed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked closely with the Arkansas Department of Education to develop and produce “Arkansas AMI” (Alternative Methods of Instruction) to keep Pre-K-8 grade students learning from home.
“Arkansas AMI” broadcasts helped fill the void for students who did not have internet access, whether due to availability or associated expense. However, because of coverage gaps, not all students were able to benefit from the programming. The Arkansas CARES Act Steering Committee recommended we receive funds to expand our coverage and ensure educational services are available for all in the future.
The allocated funds are allowing us to upgrade aging technology and expand our existing footprint of six broadcast sites and 12 microwave sites to include five additional transmitter sites:
· Lee Mountain, near Russellville, which is now fully operational.
· Yancy, near Texarkana.
· Forrest City.
· Gaither, near Harrison.
· Rich Mountain, near Mena.
Now that our first transmitter at Lee Mountain has been completed, our construction will continue at the remaining four repeater sites, and we expected to complete them all by the end of 2021!
The new transmitters will fill the majority of existing gaps in Arkansas PBS coverage, and nearly 100 percent of Arkansans will be able to benefit from our full range of entertaining and educational programming – including educational programming for school-aged children, which was crucial during school closures.
You can receive Arkansas PBS channels over the air with an antenna, but you may need to run the scan function on your television to locate our new transmitters. Find more information about how to find the new channels, as well as double rescanning, at myarpbs.org/watch. You can also choose from many other ways to watch Arkansas PBS – including livestreaming – at myarpbs.org/watchlive, through the Engage Arkansas PBS app and on-demand through Arkansas PBS Passport.