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From the archives: The beginnings of Kentucky Educational Television (KET)

On Sept. 24, 2018, Kentucky Educational Television, better known as KET, will celebrate its 50th anniversary.  Kentucky Living profiled the burgeoning network in 1968.  


Improvements in educational systems within Ken­tucky are not new because the state and its people are constantly working to improve standards of educa­tion. Some school systems have consolidated in recent years to better educate students. Others have up­graded facilities and have improved curricula. Teacher salaries have shown an upward trend, and the concern of parents for their children’s education has improved sharply in this decade.

But, even though many improvements have already been made, education in Kentucky will take one of its biggest steps forward in September of this year. The concern of professional educators, the interest of parents and the wonderful world of television have combined to create an Educational Television Network (ETV) in Kentucky that will be second to none in the United States. In just a few short months grade school students, vocational students, parents, farmers, busi­nessmen and professional people will find the doors open to broader educational opportunities-opportu­nities which would be impossible without the aid of television. Through the establishment of an ETV network, Ken­tucky has followed the example which has been set by several other states in recent years- an example which will mark the beginning of a new era in Kentucky education. Twenty-two states are presently active in educational television activities, out only nine have networks which encompass the entire state. The Southern part of the United States, including Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee, has been the leader in ETV activities.

Mr. 0. Leonard Press, Executive Director of the Ken­ tuck:y Authority for Educational Tele­ vision, has been one of the leaders in the development of ETV in . Ken­tucky. Standing be­ side Mr. Press is Robert M. Hender­son, Assistant to the Executive Di­rector.

These southern areas have enjoyed an improvement in the ranks of nation-wide educational ratings since installing ETV systems. For example, Alabama was ranked at the lowest educational level in the nation in 1953, and, in an effort to improve its educational system, the state laid plans for a statewide ETV network. Today Ala­bama has improved its educational ranking in the nation and is making plans for an extensive voca­tional training series. According to Robert E. Dodd, Studio Director at the Montgomery, Alabama, ETV Studio, “Educational Television has been a great asset to our state. We feel that its continued use will do much to stimulate formal education in Alabama and will further contribute to the fields of vocational training and the training of non-literate people.” The administration of ETV systems varies widely throughout the nation. In Alabama, ETV is administered jointly by a Programming Board, the State Department of Education and an ETV Commission. Georgia ETV, on the other hand, is controlled com­pletely by the State Department of Education, while the South Carolina system is controlled by an ETV Authority which, though founded by the state, works independently of other state agencies. Kentucky has used the better parts of all these methods.

The structure of the Kentucky ETV network combines the talents of the State Department of Educa­tion and the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television. The State Department of Education is the part of the ETV team which recommends courses for television use, and operating funds are also secured through this agency of state government. The Kentucky Authority for Educational Tele­vision (KAET) is an independent agency which carries out the rec­ommendations of the Department of Education by producing and transmitting television programs to enrich the curriculum of school systems throughout the state. All ETV programs which are used in Kentucky schools will be recom­mended by the State Department of Education, and this department has already selected more than twenty subjects to begin in Septem­ber of this year. These programs will include mathematics, language, arts, music, science, social studies, foreign language, world geography,  Kentucky history and American history. All subjects shown by ETV will be used as a supplement to classroom instruction and grades from the primary level to the high school level will receive the benefit of these programs. According to a report issued in January of this year, 118 of Ken­tucky’ s school systems will be ready to use ETV by the kick-off date in September. Nine of the state’s school districts will not be ready and a few others are not certain when they will be prepared to use ETV programming. General­ly however, ETV has sparked much enthusiasm among educators in the state. The lack of funds for install­ing the necessary in-school re­ceiving equipment seems to be the only limiting factor for those edu­cational systems which are not participating immediately.

An engineer at Eastern Kentucky Uni­ versity is shown testing the complex control panel at the University Pro­ duction Center. Centers such as this will produce ETV programs and wU1 serve as a transmitting link in the state­ wide network.

Opportunity and Challenge To the student, ETV will open a new avenue of learning which is unparalleled in our present edu­cational system. The student will receive instruction from some of the finest educators in the nation, including noted college professors who normally do not have contact with a student until his upper col­lege years. Television will present supplementary programs in the classroom which otherwise would have been financially impossible for individual school systems to produce. Elementary students, via tele­vision, will be able to visit France and speak with a French lady, learn what makes a kite fly, or study language arts with a delightful puppet. Junior High School and High School students may visit the home of an Eskimo as they view a social studies program. Music students can see and hear music at its best with the finest orchestra in the world-ETV will, indeed, bring the world to the door of every student in Kentucky. To the teacher, ETV offers a great challenge. The teacher must learn to use educational television programs to their best advantage. It is the teacher who must encour­age the enthusiastic use of ETV. It is the teacher who will prepare the class for ETV programs, and the teacher must carry out the fine details of study after the pro­ gram ends. Educational television can also be a wonderful resource for teachers. By properly using the ETV pre­sentations in her classroom in­struction, a teacher can spend less time preparing displays and visual aids for the class and devote more time to the individual student. For example, television may present a Kentucky history program- com­plete with a Perryville Battlefield tour- and the teacher can then spend more time working with stu­dents to obtain a better under­standing of terms, places and other significant information. The importance of the classroom teacher is further emphasized in a comment by Don Bale, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction in Kentucky.

According to Mr. Bale, “Educational television will offer a program of enrichment for curricu­lum in our Kentucky schools and will provide educators with a new teaching aid.” The federal government has ap­proved $500,000 for the purpose of conducting workshops for school personnel throughout the state. These workshops will be conducted prior to September and will acquaint teachers and administrative per­sonnel with the advantages and op­erations of ETV. Nearly 430 educa­ tors will be trained in the workshop programs and these teachers will then become a source of information for other teachers in their respec­tive school systems. In addition to the workshop train­ ing courses, teachers will be furnish­ed with complete program guides. The program guides will be pre­ pared and distributed by KAET several weeks before the school year begins. These guidebooks will contain a complete description of all ETV programs for the school year, thus enabling teachers to make the best use of ETV in the classroom.

This map illustrates the exact locations of all ETVtransmitters. The map makes it apparent that television broadcasts can
-be relayed throughout the state on one giant network.

Parents will also feel the influence of educational television because they will be able to watch ETV programs in the home at the same time that their children view the programs at school. This is made possible by broadcasting programs on open circuit television. If a par­ent owns a television set that has been purchased within the last four years, he can receive ETV broadcasts with ease. However, if the television set is more than four years old, it may be converted to receive ETV broadcasts for a cost of less than $16.00. (See page two of this story to determine the ETV broadcast channel for your area.)

Many ETV programs, ready for use on the ETV system, can be ob­tained from National Education Television and from other states which are active in ETV broad­casting. Programs which are pro­duced through National Education­• al Television deal primarily with the cultural and public affairs of the United States. These national pro­ grams, often available at virtually no cost, are of the highest quality and are seldom found through other sources. The second alternative for secur­ing educational television programs is by leasing them from other states. The Kentucky ETV system will lease many of these programs for use in the fall of this year. Eighteen selection committees of educators and citizens have been appointed to make the program selections. In the process of selecting an ETV program, each committee, working with a consultant from the Depart­ment of Education, must consider certain quality standards; first, the program to be selected must be compatible with the present study program in the school systems in other words, the program must com­plement the subject without chang­ing the curriculum of the school. Then, the committee must evaluate the program on the basis of its con­tribution to the development of emotional, intellectual, moral, and spiritual bonds of the students with­in the classrooms. If the program is accepted by the committee, it is then scheduled for presentation. But, if the program does not meet the necessary quality standards, it is rejected and not used at all.


Part Two (from the April 1968 issue of Kentucky Living)

The well-planned ETV system in Kentucky has also made provision for producing quality programs within the state. Many of the educa­tional programs which will be view­ed by students in the future will be produced at one of the seven ETV studios which are now being built in Kentucky. One of these studios will be located in or near Jefferson Coun­ty and each of the state’s six univer­sities will have a studio. Each of these seven studio facili­ties will receive $200,000 worth of equipment from KAET and the studio, or “production center,” must then furnish its own staff and building. The equipment which is furnished by KEAT includes two cameras, a tape recorder, control equipment, and a host of miscel­laneous items. At the present time, every production center is now be­ ing built or construction will start soon. Eastern Kentucky University is already operational, the Univer­sity of Kentucky production center will be completed in about two months, and the other studios will be completed within 18-24 months.

The educational television system will also have twelve transmitters in the state. These transmitters are devices which distribute the signal from the studio so that all Ken­tucky residents may receive ETV Continued from Page 4 programs clearly. The main Network Building or center” will be located in Lexington, Kentucky. The Lexington “nerve center” will be the largest of all the production centers and will produce many of the network programs. By simply” flicking a switch,” this central transmitting center can enable the entire state of Kentucky to receive an ETV broadcast. On the other hand, the Lexington center can” regionalize” a broadcast by connecting only a portion of the state to receive an ETV program. It is possible that several programs can be showing at different locations in the state at the same time.

Millions Invested

The construction of transmitters, production studios, and other facilities represent a multi-million dollar investment in Kentucky. In addition to the funds which have been spent by KAET and the federal government, the Bell Telephone System has invested $4,500,000 for cable and transmitting equipment. The projected cost of operation for Kentucky ETV will be $5,486,488 for the first two years, 1968-70, exclusive of debt service.

But, ironically, the cost to participating school sys­tems for the use of ETV is absolutely nothing. A school system which participates in the ETV net­ work must provide its own television sets and related rece1vmg equipment. After that, all benefits of ETV programming are free and can be used at the dis­cretion of the school system. Schools which are faced with the cost of installing receiving equipment can, however, receive financial aid through the federal government. The National Defense Education Act, Title III, will allow- a school district a full 50 percent of the cost of ETV equip­ment, provided the school follows certain guidelines. Funds are also available through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title I. This act is for the benefit of school children in deprived areas and will provide 100 percent funds for ETV facilities if the school system qualifies.

ETV Opportunities Are Broad

The tremendous asset which ETV holds for Ken­tucky does not end with its use in our school systems. This fact has been recognized by business and indus­ try throughout the state and, as a result, ETV is be­ing actively supported by a variety of interested groups and individuals. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Education Committee is supported by a full-time employee, has formed a group to study the possible uses of ETV in the training of employees. Professional people are deeply interested, state government is cooperating in every way possible, and industrialists are watching the birth of the ETV network with growing interest. Why are groups other than school systems interested in ETV? The question deserves attention and the answer will reveal the wide influence which ETV will have on Kentucky and its people. Open circuit broadcasting, to schools only, will take place between 8:00 am. and 3:00 p.rri., five days each week. Before and after this period of time, both open and closed circuit ETV can be used for the purpose of educating adults in any number of ways. (Open cir­circuit television broadcasts statewide.

Closed circuit television connects institutions only. ) Vocational training for farmers, welders, mechanics, homemakers, and a host of others can be shown in the living room of every home in the state. This use for ETV promises a benefit to thousands of people who were unable to receive adequate school training. Experts in virtually every field of work or profession can be brought to Kentucky-via ETV. As a result, industry which is now located in the state can conduct constant training courses for employees. New industry will now be in a better position to consider Kentucky as a location because ETV will offer an inexpensive way of training new employees for a variety of jobs. Adult education classes can -be conducted on the ETV network. Such· an “in-home” adult education program on the network can do much to bring a higher level of literacy to the people of Kentucky­people who, otherwise, might not participate in group classes to learn the fundamentals of reading and writing. Adults, who for various reasons have not completed their high school education, may be able to study prescribed courses on ETV, take a test based on those studies, and receive a high school equivalency certifi­cate.· Agencies within state government in Kentucky are anxiously awaiting the successful completion of the ETV system. Many uses for the system have already been projected by these agencies and the information­ al and educational benefits which can be obtained are countless.

Television cameras will be capable of telecasting programs live from a pro­ duction center. Cameras like this one represents only part of the $200,000 equipment investment at the various studios.

Educational television can be used by the state to train mental health aides, police officers can use ETV and for law enforcement purposes and highwayperson­ nel can learn new methods of maintaining state road systems and, State park employees and administrators can be better trained to serve the millions of tourists who travel Kentucky each year. Tourist and travel programs can acquaint Ken­tuckians and the nation with the wonderful recrea­tion and beauty which is available in the state.

Fish and Wildlife features can be developed in an effort to preserve Kentucky’s abundant wildlife resources. Driver training courses can be presented to help re­duce deaths and accidents on Kentucky highways. Events of state-wide significance can be telecast directly to the citizens of the state or to local, community governments within the state. For example, the present legislative sessions could be brought, live and complete, to any area within the state. In this age of rapidly changing technology, ETV will provide a tremendous asset to “computerized busi­ness.” Data processing centers and small computer installations can utilize ETV facilities when faster gathering of information is necessary. Indeed, the tiny microwaves which link the television transmitters can transport volumes of information from one area to another faster than any computer now in operation.

Colleges may find that ETV is a partial answer to coordinated higher education. Joint college courses can be presented to students throughout the state, thus bringing the concept of “team teaching” to our institutions of higher education.

The cost for producing an ETV program will vary between approximately $500 and $1500 per program. This production cost will enable groups of businesses to combine efforts for the common purpose of inform­ ing and educating employees, and by combining their efforts, the cost will be even further reduced. The educational potential that is offered by television will, in the future, demand that the best use of time be made in broadcasting programs on the ETV net­ work. This demand has been anticipated by KAET and a committee has been formed to assist in making the best use of ETV broadcasting time. This Institutional Coordinating Committee consists of nine members. These members are: The Superin­tendent of Jefferson County Schools, the Presidents of Kentucky’s six universities and the President of Ken­tucky’ s one college, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Don C. Bale, and 0. Leonard Press, KAET Executive Director. The committee will advise KAET on the use of the ETV system during non-school hours. (Schools have priority for use of the ETV sys­tem from 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. each day. Before and after this time period, the ETV system can be used for other purposes.) The Kentucky Authority for Educational Television, with its elaborate statewide broadcasting system, has not developed quickly.

Kentucky’s new ETV system was actually a dream in the minds of a handful of people nearly ten years ago. Progress during that ten-year period was often slow and difficult. Adequate funds for construction of the system were obtained only through the persistence of a few people, the foresight of the Kentucky State Department of Edu­cation, and the dedicated efforts of many Kentucky educators and businessmen. But, the fact remains, that educational television in Kentucky will soon be a reality. The first telecast to be made by the ETV system will occur in September of this year and, on that date, it will become the responsibility of every individual in the Common­wealth to carry on the work of this new educational medium.


PDF links:

KET, March 1968 (Part 1)

KET, April 1968 (Part 2)



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