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 its present site on South Padre Island Drive. To this day, KEDT is still utilizing some of the original equipment and transmitter.
South Texans responded favorably to KEDT and its PBS programs during the 1970's, 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, STPBS 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, NPR, and Jazz station, allowed KEDT to expand its capabilities to serve South Texans with cultural listening alternatives.
The 1980s: Change
South Texans found the early 80's 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 80's. "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, LIZ CARPENTER AND THE GOOD OLD BOYS, is currently being marketed.
Unfortunately, none of these programs provided the financial reward required to maintain the stations during a declining economical cycle. By the end of the 80's, STPBS was seriously in debt. Change came in drastic measures.
With the 90's, STPBS'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 STPBS 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.
Pre-school initiatives, such as the Sesame Street Pre School Education Program Initiative (Sesame Street PEP) is 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, provide extended educational services to post secondary institutions, business and industry.
Public radio is also seeing change in the 90s. With the introduction of digital audio, expanded audio services is becoming available to a greater and more diverse group. Customized services to the visually impaired, to individuals who speak a foreign language, and much more make radio more accessible to a wider range of individuals.
Locally, STPBS is undertaking 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.
As South Texas approaches a new century, the role of Public Broadcasting will significantly change. With the advent of digital audio broadcast, high definition television, compressed video, and expanded wired and wireless cable, consumers will have a wider variety of choices in the programming they choose to view and listen. In addition, interactive media will begin to play a greater role in business, education, and the entertainment market.
The future for STPBS will be in a variety of discreet and specialized program services which will enhance the quality of life for the citizens of South Texas. Key to STPBS's future success will lie in its ability to provide relevant and valued services to the many publics we serve.
Community support and a commitment to localism will guide those decisions, as STPBS forges new partnerships with business, industry, educational institutions, other non-profit organizations and the consumer.