Arkansas PBS, the state’s educational television network, has completed three of four additional transmitters to close almost all gaps in its broadcast service statewide.
The COVID-19 pandemic and need for remote schooling underlined the need for better broadcast coverage, officials said, not least because many rural Arkansas homes still lack fast internet connections. The third of the four facilities is now broadcasting from near Gaither (Boone County), providing a signal to Boone, Carroll, Marion, Newton and Searcy counties, including the towns of Harrison, Yellville, Summit, Bergman, Alpena, Green Forest, and Western Grove.
The project is bolstering broadcast availability in all or part of 31 counties that had been getting a weak signal, or none at all, increasing access from 76% of the state to 95%. A $6.4 million grant from the federal CARES Act COVID fund paid for the new transmitters, a sum delivered by the Arkansas CARES Act Steering Committee.
The new transmitter, known as a repeater, amplifies the Arkansas PBS primary transmitter in Little Rock and will be broadcast as KETS, Channel 2. This one repeater accounts for a 5.1% increase in coverage area, an additional potential audience of 151,055 Arkansans.
In a statement, Arkansas PBS CEO Courtney Pledger noted that public television is a “daily and essential service,” and that the network was thrilled to expand its broadcast reach in the north of the state. “We serve Arkansans without access to cable, satellite or broadband, many who need our educational programs like ‘Rise and Shine’ for summer learning. We inform [Arkansans] with in-depth public affairs coverage and provide important statewide tools for public safety.”
The network will livestream a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Harrison City Hall at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, October 13, at myarpbs.org/arcan. The network also credited its partnership with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, which facilitated the transmitter’s construction.
The other transmitters in the overall project, which is built upon an existing footprint of six broadcast sites and 12 microwave sites, are:
- Lee Mountain, near Russellville, now fully operational
- Forrest City, also operational
- Gaither, near Harrison, which was recently switched on
- Yancy, near Texarkana, in testing and commissioning phase nearing launch
The last site should be operational by the end of the year, officials said.