The 1970’s: A Look at Our Beginnings
During his travels, Charles Butt, then a resident of Corpus Christi, who later became President of HEB Food Stores, frequently observed the benefits and enjoyment that PBS programs brought to the other communities.
Mr. Butt believed South Texans deserved television programs that inspired and challenged the viewer to be a participant with the community. He began to seek others for support. He found another Corpus Christian, Don Weber, who shared this belief, and together they set the stage for Public Broadcasting in South Texas.
The two businessmen set out to investigate the possibility of establishing a local public broadcast station and were able to attract the support of nine (9) South Texans who volunteered to serve on the original Board of Directors.
KEDT’s Original Board of Directors
- Richard B. Dorn
- John Crutchfield
- Dr. McIver Furman
- Mrs. Richard M. Kleberg, Jr.
- Dr. Jean Richards
- Edwin Singer
- James H. Sorenson, Jr.
- Robert P. Wallace
- Harvey Weil
Realizing the great expense of new equipment, this original Board of Directors located a package of used equipment in Houston and raised the needed funds for the purchase. As word spread of the potential PBS service becoming available locally, other community leaders began to assist the Board.
Area rancher John Chapman provided a place for the transmitter on his property near Petronila. A local architect, Lesley Mabrey, designed the facilities, and KLRN, the San Antonio PBS station, offered to provide PBS programs to the new Corpus Christi station, via telephone cables.
On October 16, 1972, KEDT went on the air for the first time from the vacated Cheston Heath School building on Carrizo Street. The beginnings were indeed humble; but the commitment of this original Board of Directors to bring a viewing alternative centered on service remained their focus and continues today.
A year later, KEDT moved to Commerce One Plaza, off South Padre Island Drive which was home for 42 years. In late 2015 KEDT moved into custom-designed studios at 3205 S. Staples Street.
South Texans responded favorably to KEDT and its PBS programs during the 1970s, and coupled with a strong, energy-based economy, KEDT began to grow. Individuals, local corporations, and family foundations donated to the station and affirmed the need for PBS broadcasts in South Texas.
During the first decade of the organization’s existence, KEDT was established as the visionary leader in utilizing the technology of television for the personal enrichment of all South Texans. The addition of FM 90.3 in 1982, South Texas’ only classical and NPR station, allowed KEDT to expand its capabilities to serve South Texans with substantive radio programming.
The 1980s: Change
South Texans found the early ’80s to be quite rewarding. As a result, KEDT was generously assisted with maintaining its quality broadcasts. The expansion of service to include KEDT-FM 90.3 came on the brink of the fall of the strong energy economy. Individual, corporate, and foundation support began to dwindle due to the overall economic decline.
At the same time, KEDT, and similar stations, found their viewers demanding more quality programs than the PBS system was capable of supplying. The demand for more programs led many stations into trying to fill these voids by independently producing programs.
While going through difficult economic conditions, the potential of producing a marketable product to other stations could counter balance the revenue shortfall which the stations were experiencing.
KEDT-TV produced several well-received programs during the ’80s. Lone Star was an eight-part series featuring dialogue from Larry Hagman, which KEDT produced for the Texas Sesquicentennial and was broadcast nationally. Schools throughout Texas requested the series to supplement Texas history courses.
Bill Moyers’ The Man Who Beat the Blacklist, focused on John Henry Falk and the impact of McCarthyism on the nation and an individual’s life. Another national broadcast that received requests for use by schools was, Liz Carpenter and the Good Old Boys.
Unfortunately, none of these programs provided the financial reward required to maintain the stations during a declining economical cycle. By the end of the ’80s, KEDT was seriously in debt. Change came in drastic measures.
With the ’90s, KEDT’s Board of Directors made significant changes to the organization to preserve the stations. A majority of the debt incurred was eliminated, with the balance scheduled for payment over a seven-year period. With KEDT stabilized, the slow rebuilding of the program service was undertaken.
On the national scene, PBS redirected its service with the development of a more diversified national program schedule. It also renewed its commitment to education. With the launch of a new satellite in the fall of 1993, PBS was able to expand its programming services to assist in the enhancement of technology in the academic environment.
Preschool initiatives, such as the Sesame Street Pre School Education Program Initiative (Sesame Street PEP) was a major effort to prepare youngsters between the ages of two and five to enter the school system ready to learn.
Distance learning for credit and non-credit course work, coupled with teleconferencing capabilities, provided extended educational services to post secondary institutions, business and industry.
Public radio also saw change in the ’90s. With the introduction of digital audio, expanded audio services became available to a greater and more diverse group.
KEDT undertook a major effort to recapitalize its building and facilities to prepare for the evolving technology of the next century. The stations are also developing a host of local program services to augment those provided by National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service.
STPBS has re-directed its resources to enhancing the local presence of the stations to provide expanded outreach services, as well as to maximize programs which appear on each station’s broadcast schedule.
The New Millenium
As South Texas approached a new century, the role of public broadcasting significantly changed. With the advent of digital audio broadcast, high definition television, compressed video, and expanded wired and wireless cable, consumers have a wider variety of programming choices. In addition, interactive media began to play a greater role in business, education, and the entertainment market.
The KEDT Center for Educational Broadcasting, on the corner of South Staples and Kostoryz, is the public-media station’s first new home in more than 40 years, and its first location built specifically for broadcasting. The 16,000 square-foot building (opened in early 2016) houses upgraded radio and television studios, including an indoor recording studio, glass-walled announcer booths and a broadcast-ready, outdoor performance plaza. A partnership with Del Mar College allows for a $246,000 annual reduction in operating costs while allowing KEDT to remain a community-owned station.
Community support and a commitment to localism continues to guide decisions, as KEDT forges new partnerships with business, industry, educational institutions, other non-profit organizations and the consumer.