Arkansas PBS has completed the first transmitter of a five-transmitter expansion to achieve near universal public television broadcast coverage in the state by the end of the year.
The expansion extends 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 99.5%.
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.
The first transmitter near Russellville at Lee Mountain is now operating at full power, bringing Arkansas PBS into the homes of residents in Pope, Johnson, Logan and Yell counties.
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 first transmitter accounts for a 4.2% increase in coverage and reaches an additional 124,289 people.
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 five additional transmitter sites:
Lee Mountain, near Russellville, which is now fully operational.
Yancy, near Texarkana.
Gaither, near Harrison.
Rich Mountain, near Mena.
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.
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.