Historic marker 2542 in Lexington recognizes the importance of Kentucky's public education television network. KET: The Kentucky Network started broadcasting throughout the state on September 23, 1968, beating the debut of the national television network, the Public Broadcasting System, also known as PBS, by a year. The origins of Kentucky's TV network does not start in a studio, but a classroom at the University of Kentucky (UK).
Founded by O. Leonard Press, a Professor of Telecommunications at UK, the network started as an idea to provide educational content to all Kentuckians. To Press, television was a perfect new tool to reach everyone in the same manner; whether they lived on rural farms, in coal mining towns, or metropolitan areas, all citizens could benefit. A statewide educational platform could equalize the learning process for everyone. Kentucky Educational Television was the first network in the nation designed to reach everyone in the state at once. KET combined the resources of the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television and the State Department of Education to make Press's vision a reality.
In its infancy, KET broadcasted educational programming into classrooms to bolster the curriculum during school hours, while at the same time, parents could see at home what their children were learning. Several months after its launch the network added programming for adults after school hours. KET utilized effective programs from other networks and shows that were self-produced, including "Kentucky is My Land," which began airing in 1969. KET continuously added programs to its schedule that developed the minds of children and adults, expanding beyond the classroom and into people's homes. In 1970, KET became a PBS affiliate, and this relationship allowed Kentuckians to benefit from a broader format of educational programming. The network even developed a GED program for adults in 1975 that was broadcast nationally and is still the largest nonprofit producer of GED materials in the country.
Kentucky Educational Television serves more than one million viewers per week, airing both old favorites and new delights. Viewers can watch shows like Sesame Street, Mister Roger's Neighborhood, Masterpiece Classic, Comment on Kentucky, Nova, American Experience, Kentucky Tonight, and Great Performances. KET also grants Kentuckians direct access to their lawmaking processes by airing live legislative sessions.
But KET would not be what it is today without the guidance of Leonard and Lillian Press. Their push for a statewide public television station devoted to education began in 1962 when the General Assembly established the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television. Len Press became KET's first executive director. Over the years, both Len and Lil worked diligently to create the network viewers know today. Lillian Press, too, helped push for educational innovations, championing The Women's Network and the Governor's Scholars Program, becoming known as "The First Lady" of KET. At the time of Len Press's retirement, "KET was viewed as a national model for educational, cultural, historical and public affairs programming." Today, the O. Leonard Press Communications Center in Lexington is named in his honor.
Today, KET serves that mission using four dedicated tv channels KET, KET2, KETKY, and KETKids. It takes three stations, in Lexington, Louisville, and Frankfort, and 16 transmitters to span eight states, making Kentucky’s history and educational opportunities available regionally. Since its inception, KET has made many changes, like moving from analog to digital. However, the ultimate goal of their mission has remained "to make Kentucky a better place and strengthen its communities by educating, inspiring, informing, and connecting its citizens through the power of public media."
The marker reads:
KENTUCKY EDUCATIONAL TELEVISION
Kentucky’s statewide public television network began broadcasting Sept. 23, 1968. Initially airing weekdays during school hours, KET grew to become one of the largest public television networks in the nation, serving as an innovative and equitable educational resource for homes and classrooms across the Commonwealth.
KET, THE KENTUCKY NETWORK
KET has enriched lives and helped build stronger communities by educating, inspiring, and connecting people of every age and circumstance. Throughout its history, KET has produced essential public affairs and cultural programs, delivered engaging PBS content, and developed trusted and effective classroom resources.
This marker was dedicated on September 18, 2018.