Public television expansion made possible by CARES Act Funding increases access to early childhood, educational, entertaining programming
CONWAY, Ark. (Arkansas PBS) — Arkansas PBS has completed the third transmitter of a four-transmitter expansion to achieve near universal public television broadcast coverage in the state, 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 95%. 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.
This transmitter near Gaither is now operating at full power, bringing Arkansas PBS into the homes of residents in Boone, Carroll, Marion, Newton and Searcy counties, and covering the cities of Harrison, Yellville, Summit, Bergman, Alpena, Green Forrest, Western Grove and areas of Mountain Home. 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 third transmitter accounts for a 5.1% increase in coverage and reaches an additional 151,055 people.
“Arkansas PBS provides a daily and essential service for Arkansans, and we are thrilled to expand our broadcast reach in the northern region of the state,” Arkansas PBS COO Ed Leon said. “Our broadcast transmitters serve Arkansans without access to cable, satellite or broadband, many who need our educational programs like ‘Rise and Shine’ for summer learning.
“We inform our Arkansas community with in-depth public affairs coverage and provide important statewide tools for public safety. The Arkansans served by this new transmitter will also benefit from our expanding Arkansas-specific programming like historical documentaries and high school state sports finals.”
Arkansas PBS will hold a ribbon-cutting celebration of the new Gaither transmitter Thursday, Oct. 13, at 1:30 p.m. at Harrison City Hall, 118 Industrial Park Rd., Harrison, Arkansas. The event will livestream at myarpbs.org/arcan. Chuck Dovish, long-time host of “Exploring Arkansas,” and frequent explorer of the Ozarks region, will be in attendance.
The Gaither tower was made possible by a partnership with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management.
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 four additional transmitter sites:
- Lee Mountain, near Russellville, which is now fully operational.
- Forrest City, which is now fully operational.
- Gaither, near Harrison, which is now fully operational.
- Yancy, near Texarkana, in testing and commissioning phase nearing launch.
Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
These transmitters will fill the majority of existing gaps, and approximately 95% 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/waystowatch. Viewers can also choose from many other ways to watch Arkansas PBS, including livestreaming at myarpbs.org/watch, 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.
About Arkansas PBS
Arkansas PBS, Arkansas’s only statewide public media network, empowers learners of all ages by educating, informing, entertaining and inspiring communities. Arkansas PBS serves as a daily and essential resource for Arkansans by creating, sharing, celebrating and driving conversation around Arkansas stories and classic, trusted PBS programs through multiple digital platforms, including livestreaming at myarpbs.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), KETZ (El Dorado), KETS (Lee Mountain) and KETS (Forrest City).