Smoky Hills Public Television was incorporated in March of 1978 as a part of the plan to extend public television service to un-served areas in central and western Kansas. Initial funding for the station was received from the State of Kansas and the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
In 1981, the corporation purchased a 100-year-old, native stone building in Bunker Hill, renovated it into a modern broadcast facility, and erected a 1,119-foot tower. The station broadcast its first signal as KOOD-TV (Channel 9) on November 10, 1982. Translators soon extended service to the Hoxie, Phillipsburg and Concordia areas.
Smoky Hills expanded its service into southwest Kansas in 1989 via two full-power stations (KSWK-TV, Lakin, and KDCK-TV, Dodge City). In 1991, a second set of translators was constructed to serve the areas of Oakley, Goodland, Oberlin and Norton.
When the Federal Communications Commission mandated that television broadcasting change to a digital system, Smoky Hills Public Television and the other public television stations in Kansas, operating through the Kansas Public Broadcasting Council (KPBC), developed a state-wide plan for conversion to the new standard.
The Kansas Legislature, along with PTFP and NTIA, helped fund the first phase, providing matching funds for transmission facilities. The grants also allowed Smoky Hills to convert its master control and supporting systems to digital technology. KOOD-DT, KSWK-DT, and KDCK-DT all signed on in 2003.
In 2002, $2,000,000 was received from the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to match $1,200,000 in Kansas funding to construct a high-power digital television station, including a 1,200-foot tower, to serve northwest Kansas. KWKS-DT signed on June 1, 2007. As the next step in its transition from analog to digital television, five of Smoky Hills’ northwest translators will be decommissioned at the end of October, 2007.
Today, Smoky Hills Public Television serves 71 counties in Kansas via its over-the-air signal, 120 cable systems and DirecTV and the Dish Network.
Committed since its inception to making excellent cultural and intellectual content from all corners of the world available to all Kansans, Smoky Hills presents the extraordinary programming of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and other national and international sources.
Believing that the best of Kansans’ artistic imaginations, personal expression and stories deserve to be celebrated with each other and the world, Smoky Hills Public Television produces between 50-60 hours of Kansas-related programming each year – as diverse as public affairs, the arts, historical documentaries and western Kansas high school sports. Smoky Hills Public Television has twice been recognized as “Television Station of the Year” by the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, and has won numerous other awards for its productions.
Believing that education is a cornerstone of our society and the most important enabler for all aspects of life, Smoky Hills Public Television broadcasts nine hours of safe, non-violent, educational children’s programming every weekday. The station’s educational outreach programs have provided literacy training to thousands of teachers and parents throughout central and western Kansas, and distributed tens of thousands of books, often the first book a disadvantaged Kansas child will own.
As a not-for-profit institution, Smoky Hills Public Television receives a portion of its funding each year from federal and state sources, but the largest portion of the revenue necessary to operate the station comes from local support.
One of the most significant sources of support is Membership, which allows individual viewers to make a contribution to their public television station. Through the Horizon Society, major donors provide generous support to Smoky Hills Public Television. Viewers also can make significant legacy gifts in support of Smoky Hills Public Television through planned giving contributions.
Businesses and individuals also help defray the costs of programs on Smoky Hills by becoming a program underwriter – providing financial support for general programming or specific programs or local productions.
Smoky Hills Public Television is a community licensee, owned by the citizens it serves and governed by a board of directors selected from its membership. Rooted and involved in its community, Smoky Hills Public Television has been celebrating the best of Kansas community life and connecting Kansans with each other for a quarter of a century.
Throughout the 30 years of its service, Smoky Hills Public Television has been a leader in its industry and an outstanding steward of the trust placed in it by the people of central and western Kansas.
More than just a television station, the institution of Smoky Hills Public Television looks to a bright future as it continues to nourish the curiosity and enrich the lives of the people of central and western Kansas and make Kansas a better place to live and work.