Arkansas PBS > Engage > Pressroom > Arkansas PBS moves closer to near universal statewide coverage with completion of transmitter near Russellville; transmitter first of five made possible by CARES Act Funding
Posted 03 Jun 2021
Public television expansion to be completed by year end increases access to early childhood, educational, entertaining programming
CONWAY, Ark. (Arkansas PBS) — Arkansas PBS has completed the first transmitter of a five- transmitter expansion to achieve near universal public television broadcast coverage in the state by the end of the year, extending airwaves to part or all of 31 counties that previously received a very weak or no signal – an increase from 76% of the state to 99.5%. The expansion was made possible by $6.4 million from the Federal CARES Act COVID Fund awarded to Arkansas PBS by the Arkansas CARES Act Steering Committee.
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, and covering the cities of Russellville and Dardanelle, as well as those 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. This first transmitter accounts for a 4.2% increase in coverage and reaches an additional 124,289 people.
“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.”
The need for additional transmitters was determined by a technical study that revealed that the network’s broadcast signal reached roughly 76% of the population of Arkansas. When schools were dismissed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arkansas PBS worked closely with the Arkansas Department of Education to develop and produce “Arkansas AMI” (Alternative Methods of Instruction) to keep pre-K-8th grade students learning from home. These 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 Arkansas PBS receive funds to expand coverage to ensure educational services are available for all in the future.
The allocated funds are allowing Arkansas PBS to upgrade aging technology and expand its 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.
With the completion of the first transmitter at Lee Mountain, construction continues on the remaining four repeater sites and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
These transmitters will fill the majority of existing gaps, and nearly 100% of Arkansans will be able to benefit from the network’s full range of entertaining and educational programming including educational programming for school-aged children, which was crucial during school closures.
Viewers can receive Arkansas PBS channels over the air with an antenna but may need to run the scan function on their televisions to locate the new transmitters. Additional information about how to find the new channels, as well as double rescanning, is available at myarpbs.org/watch. Viewers 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.
The process of adding transmitters has included identifying available broadcast spectrum, obtaining FCC permissions and acquiring tower sites and transmitters, among other implementation tasks.
The Arkansas CARES Act Steering Committee was created to study and analyze the relief available to the state of Arkansas, its citizens and businesses under the CARES Act; identify and prioritize the needs of the state of Arkansas, its citizens and businesses for the application of available relief; identify the most efficient practices and procedures to obtain and apply available relief; and to make recommendations to the governor on best uses of the CARES Act funding.
Arkansas PBS, Arkansas’s only statewide public media network, enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. Arkansas PBS delivers daily, essential, local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers through multiple digital platforms, including livestreaming at myarkansaspbs.org/watch, on-demand services and YouTube TV, and the distinct channels Arkansas PBS, Arkansas PBS Create, Arkansas PBS KIDS, Arkansas PBS WORLD and Arkansas PBS AIRS on SAP. Members with Arkansas PBS Passport have extended on-demand access to a rich library of public television programming. Arkansas PBS depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. Additional information is available at myarkansaspbs.org. Arkansas PBS is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro) and KETZ (El Dorado).