KEDT is a full-service Public television station in Corpus Christi, Texas, broadcasting locally in digital on UHF channel 23 as a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member station. Founded in 1972, the station is owned by South Texas Public Broadcasting System.
KEDT began as a vision by a local businessman, Charles Butt, to bring the benefits of public television to south Texas. Butt, part of the family that founded the H-E-B supermarket chain, joined with Don Weber, another local businessman with similar vision, and the two approached the Corpus Christi business community with a proposal to start a local PBS television station. Others became interested, and soon formed a Board of Directors.
The station had humble beginnings. Its original equipment was a donation from KVVV-TV of Galveston, an independent station that had ceased operations in 1969. The original transmitter location was on a site donated by a local rancher. The original broadcast facilities were in an abandoned school building in town, and the original programming was provided by San Antonio PBS station KLRN via telephone cables. Overcoming all of the challenges, KEDT signed on the air on October 16, 1972. The station moved into its current facilities the following year.
KEDT was well received in the community, and with a strong energy-based local economy and the philanthropy that accompanies strong economies, the station prospered. In 1980, South Texas Public Broadcasting System, the station's owner, applied for a low-power repeater station for Victoria that would have expanded KEDT's reach in South Texas. In addition, KEDT began to produce its own programming, supplementing PBS fare.
The good times were not to last, as a community that is heavily dependent on one industry is subject to its fortunes and misfortunes. Corpus Christi was no exception, and the prosperity that enriched KEDT in the late 1970s and early 1980s quickly disappeared with the hard times in the energy industry in the mid- to late-1980s. Corporate and personal donations to the station all but vanished, and the locally produced programming, while critically acclaimed and in wide demand, did not generate enough revenue to meet the station's needs. Plans for a television station in Victoria were scrapped in late 1984. By the end of the 1980s, KEDT was deeply in debt.
Sound financial management helped the station to recover in the 1990s, including debt restructuring, aggressive cost-cutting, and revenue enhancement. KEDT outsourced many of its non-essential functions and began changing its programming to further serve the needs of the community. One such change was the addition of distance learning in conjunction with local educational establishments.
The advent of the new century brought new opportunities and challenges to KEDT. Digital television (DTV) has brought new financial burdens to the station, but at the same time is bringing new benefits. As of 2003, the station was still using some of its original equipment and transmitter from 1972, so DTV presented an opportunity to modernize. In addition, DTV has allowed the station to air even more programming to serve the community, giving more opportunity to generate needed revenue.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|16.1||1080i||16:9||KEDT-HD||Main KEDT programming / PBS|
KEDT-DT was granted an original construction permit on August 20, 2001, to transmit on UHF channel 23. As with many other DTV facilities, KEDT-DT has not been able to build the facilities as quickly as planned, and the station has had to request several extensions of the construction permit. On April 30, 2003, the station was granted Special Temporary Authority (STA) to broadcast at reduced power to conserve financial resources. The STA has been extended several times, and the station has requested to make its temporary operations permanent, as its DTV signal coverage matches its analog signal coverage, and compares favorably with the DTV signal coverage of a local commercial television station that has already maximized its DTV signal.
KEDT shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 16, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 23. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 16.
KEDT carries programming typical of PBS member stations. On weekdays from 7:00 AM – 9:30 AM, KEDT airs children's programming, followed by educational programming suitable for use in schools from 9:30 AM – 3:00 PM. Another block of children's programming fills the late afternoon hours from 3:00 PM – 5:30 PM, followed by adult PBS programming through the evening and overnight hours. The weekends also consist mostly of network fare.
KEDT produced several original programs for broadcast nationally on PBS. Of note is Lone Star, an eight-part series on the history of Texas, produced in honor of the Texas Sesquicentennial in 1986. It was hosted by Larry Hagman and continues to be requested by Texas schools for use in supplementing their Texas history courses. Another notable production was John Henry Faulk: The Man Who Beat the Blacklist, hosted by Bill Moyers and Studs Terkel. The documentary detailed the effects of McCarthyism on John Henry Faulk, a Texas radio broadcaster, and on the nation as a whole. Justice for My People: The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Story focused on Dr. Hector P. Garcia, a Mexican-born medical doctor from Corpus Christi, who was cherished by many thousands with whom he had contact. Other local programs included Liz Carpenter and the Good Old Boys and USS Lexington: Always Ready!, the latter a documentary about the World War II aircraft carrier that compiled the longest service record in the history of the United States Navy.
The second most watched show on KEDT (the most-watched being Antiques Roadshow) is the locally produced quiz bowl program Challenge!, where teams from local high schools compete in an academic quiz show hosted by Eric Boyd. 24 high schools begin in the competition in a single elimination tournament until there is only one team remaining. There is also an "All Star" Challenge! game, in which twelve top players from twelve different teams are selected to compete in a special one-hour Challenge! game. Challenge! is funded by a number of local businesses and universities, and the top four teams and all competitors in the All-Star game receive scholarship money. The show is currently in its eleventh season.
On January 16, 2008, a US Navy MH 53 Sea Dragon helicopter crashed into KEDT's tower, killing three sailors, damaging the top 75 feet of the 1000-foot tower, including the beacon light and the antenna, and knocking the station off the air. KEDT resumed broadcasting the next day from auxiliary facilities at reduced power.