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The Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), an agency of the State of Arkansas, is a non-commercial network designed to serve the people of Arkansas. It is affiliated with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). AETN’s mission includes offering lifelong learning opportunities to all Arkansans, supplying instructional programs to Arkansas schools, providing programming and services to improve and enhance the lives of Arkansas citizens, and illuminating the culture and heritage of Arkansas and the world.
AETN began on June 4, 1954, with the creation of the Arkansas Educational Television Association. This citizens’ group was interested in a non-commercial alternative to the growing commercial television enterprise. In 1961, after several years of lobbying and discussions, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 198 to help foster an educated, thinking populace using the new technology of television. The legislature, with the support of Governor Orval Faubus, set aside a small amount of funding to begin the process of planning for station KETS to serve central Arkansas.
R. Lee Reaves, a former Arkansas state senator, was selected to serve as the first director of the educational station. Several communities vied for the station, but Conway (Faulkner County) was selected after land was made available by Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) and a significant contribution came from the Conway Corporation. Network headquarters were built, and the first broadcast aired on December 4, 1966. Over the next fifteen years, four additional transmitters were added to expand coverage to virtually the entire state.
AETN’s broadcast center and four production studios are still located in Conway on land leased from the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). AETN is licensed to the State of Arkansas. The eight-member, governor-appointed Arkansas Educational Television Commission is the governing body for the state network. Commissioners are appointed as representatives of public school education, higher education, the four U.S. congressional districts, women, and minorities. They serve seven-year terms.
Since it began broadcasting in 1966, AETN has grown to a statewide network service. Six digital transmitters are located throughout the state: KAFT-13 in Fayetteville (Washington County); KEMV-6 in Mountain View (Stone County); KETG-9 in Arkadelphia (Clark County); KETS-2 in Little Rock (Pulaski County); KTEJ-19 in Jonesboro (Craighead County); and KETZ-12 in El Dorado (Union County). Viewership of AETN extends throughout the state and into surrounding states; it is estimated that nearly nine percent of viewership comes from Missouri.
AETN broadcasts a full twenty-four-hour schedule, including three separate program streams on its digital channels for different audiences: AETN-HD, general audience programs from PBS and AETN seen in HD (with a simulcast on its analog channels); AETN Create/AETN Kids, with lifestyle and how-to programs for adults during the day shared with non-commercial, educational programs for children ages four through twelve during the evening; and AETN Scholar, which provides classroom instructional support and educator development. Use of the network’s analog signal was discontinued in 2009 per government regulations, being replaced by digital broadcasts.
AETN broadcasts a full PBS schedule supplemented with educational programming from various other sources. AETN also produces programming designed specifically to help Arkansans with lifelong learning. These local productions have covered all genres and have included such shows as: The Arkansas Traveler, Arkansas Outdoors, Ozark Mountain Christmas, The Edge of Conflict: Arkansas in the Civil War, Arkansas Serenade, Aging Successfully with Doctor David, Precious Memories: Our Vanishing Rural Churches, Arkansans Ask, Men and Women of Distinction, Mothers in Prison–Children in Crisis, and AETN Presents.
AETN has received more than 300 regional, national, and international awards for its local productions about and for Arkansas. Eight programs have received Emmy awards: The Edge of Conflict: Arkansas in the Civil War (1995), Lost Squadron (1998), Precious Memories: Our Vanishing Rural Churches (2000), When Lightning Struck: Saga of an American War Plane (2000), The Sound of Dreams (2002), The Forgotten Expedition (2003), Charles Banks Wilson (2007), and The Buffalo Flows (2009).
Nearly 10,000 Arkansas homes are tuned to AETN during any given fifteen-minute period in the evening. The numbers are not at the top of local ratings but reflect AETN’s commitment to educational, alternative programming. Half of all AETN programming is related to family and children.
During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, AETN became an educational resource for public school and college educators through the use of instructional videos with teacher guides and supplements for kindergarten through twelfth-grade classrooms. AETN also began offering college tele-courses, helping thousands of adults get college educations, and GED-ON-TV, helping thousands of adults prepare to take and pass the GED exam for a high school equivalency diploma.
During the mid-1990s, AETN began providing distance learning via broadcast, satellite, the Internet, and compressed video to allow for easier, cost-effective, and standardized educational professional development, as well as equal access for students to a wide variety of courses. AETN’s instructional video-on-demand program for classroom teachers, in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), allows all Arkansas public schools access to more than 47,000 educational video clips, teacher guides, and interactive activities and has a ninety-five-percent usage rate. The innovative AETN professional development online service, Arkansas IDEAS, provides training hours free to all Arkansas teachers and was awarded a national technology in education award by the Association of Public Television Stations in 2007.
Funding for AETN comes from a variety of sources, but at the center is voluntary contribution from viewers and members, making up about eighteen percent of network funding annually. AETN has made a public commitment to use viewer funding to pay for programming and content. Three fund drives are held on the air each year, and AETN has continued to hold steady or even reduce the days of such drives.
For additional information:
Arkansas Educational Television Network. http://www.aetn.org/ (accessed April 13, 2017).
Taylor, Allie. “An Inquiry into Control of Content by the Arkansas Educational Television Network.” In First Amendment Studies: The Richard S. Arnold Prize Essays, edited by Stephen A. Smith. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2016.
Tiffany L. Verkler
Arkansas Educational Television Network
Last Updated 4/13/2017
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