KACV-TV is Celebrating 25 Years of Affiliation with PBS


Old standbys on KACV-TV, like Charlie Rose, Antiques Road Show and The Joy of Painting, on which landscape guru Bob Ross generates “happy little trees,” are poised to charm yet another generation.

But there was a time not so long ago when precious few Panhandle folks were privy to the illuminating delights of the Public Broadcasting Service, a non-local version of it, at that.

As recently as the mid-1980s, when cable television was not nearly as widespread as it is today, cable-connected households hereabout were subject to the metropolitan whims of PBS programmers down Dallas way. Our non-cable neighbors simply did without; for them, Sesame Street wasn’t even an alley.

That all changed with the flip of a switch on Aug. 29, 1988, when AC’s television station, KACV, was christened a full-fledged, non-commercial affiliate of PBS. Not only was Mr. Rogers happily accessible in all our neighborhoods, but our neighborhood stories were finally being told on local PBS.

KACV is taking the opportunity of its 25th anniversary to officially change its name to Panhandle PBS and to commence an extended, multifaceted celebration of its longevity that naturally will include acknowledgement and appreciation of its many supporters.

“Twenty-five years is a big deal,” Linda Pitner, the station’s general manager said. “It’s a milestone worth celebrating, to be sure, but more than that it’s a direct reflection of the amazing support we receive, locally from the College and the community, and from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”

“The generosity and encouragement of those three entities—College, community and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting—are what keep us in existence.”

Diverse celebratory plans are in the works: a party Aug. 25 at Wonderland Park; a gala event later this fall; costumed PBS characters like Curious George roaming the Washington Street Campus as greeters on the first day of school; free concerts with the Otwell Twins—some in conjunction with a concentrated tour of regional libraries, where videographers will collect remembrances of Panhandle residents to preserve for future generations.

All that and a name change, too.

“Market research tells us that ‘Panhandle PBS’ is really what viewers think of when they think of KACV,” Pitner said. “KACV doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but we are PBS and we do serve the Panhandle, so changing our name just makes sense.

“We’re thrilled to now make it official: Panhandle PBS.”

Much admittedly has changed since the 1988 launch of a PBS affiliate at AC. Back then, the very notion of channel surfing was, well, remote.

Today channel surfing is a national pastime. Yet those who lock onto Panhandle PBS, even though they might find Sid the Science Kid in place of Bill Nye the Science Guy or The Primal Grill instead of The French Chef, still identify with the comfort zone that is PBS—a bastion of continuity likely to refresh but never to repudiate its mission.

“I believe right now that the quality of our content is the best it’s ever been,” Jackie Smith, director of program operations, said. “Yes we’re different than in 1988, but in a way very little has changed. What we set out to do, and what we still strive to do, is engage, entertain, and empower viewers.

“And honestly, when other channels are showing Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, we are always here to turn to with staples like Nature and Nova. It’s what we do.”

TV broadcasting was not new to AC in 1988. The College actually began offering instruction on local commercial stations way back in 1955, and AC established its own radio/TV academic department in 1971. Soon thereafter, Badger basketball games and other local fare hit the airwaves.

AC began full-time operation of Cable Channel 2 in 1982, then withstood an FCC licensure tug-of-war with another non-commercial group that vied to operate on Channel 2.

The dominoes fell quickly after that. The FCC issued AC a permit of authorization in 1986, and in 1987 AC received a $1 million equipment grant from the Department of Commerce. About $550,000 was raised locally that same year, enabling building expansion. PBS affiliation then came swiftly.

Panhandle PBS now serves the 26 counties of the Panhandle and reaches 140,000 households and about 412,000 individuals.

Its birth was 25 years ago this month, in 1988, when Rain Man won the Oscar, and a certain presidential candidate asked that we read his lips, and the cost of a first-class postage stamp skyrocketed to 25 cents, and the street of Sesame was finally paved, from Tulia to Perryton, skirting happy little trees along the way.

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