Killeen-Temple public television KNCT-TV, Channel 46, stops broadcasting at midnight Friday, ending a 47-year chapter of locally based public television in Central Texas.
The end comes some six months after Central Texas College trustees, holders of the station’s broadcast license, decided to close the station because of projected costs of a Federal Communications Commission-mandated move to a different channel location by 2020.
The FCC is looking to move stations on a certain broadcast frequency band to free up space it could auction for use by wireless broadband providers, a process known as repacking.
The board and station officials had agreed to the move last year, anticipating much of its cost for the required equipment would be carried by the federal government. Congress, however, appropriated less money for the project, leaving the college and KNCT expecting an additional $1.4 million they would have to cover.
Given that the public television station also had run at an annual loss of about $400,000 for several years, Central Texas College trustees chose instead to close the station and put its broadcasting license and equipment out for bid.
Board members voted earlier this week to accept a bid from Gray Television, owner of Waco station KWTX-TV, Channel 10. College spokesman Bruce Vasbinder said the bid was $370,000.
Area Public Broadcasting Service fans can continue watching PBS programming, which includes the PBS Kids and Create digital channels, in the absence of KNCT-TV, depending on their platform. Subscribers of satellite television services DirecTV and Dish Network will find College Station station KAMU-TV in KNCT’s place (DirecTV channel 15, Dish channel 12) while subscribers of cable television providers Grande Communications and Charter Spectrum will have Austin’s KLRU-TV (Grande channels 4 and 804, Spectrum channel 4).
Those who view KNCT’s over-the-air signal will not have any public broadcasting programming to watch in its place, although a graphic directing viewers to public broadcasting options will be aired over the channel. Information about PBS streaming options is available at pbs.org/anywhere.
The college and Gray Television will apply to the FCC for consent to reassign the KNCT license, which, with FCC approval, may happen by year’s end.
KWTX general manager Mike Wright said Gray’s plans for the KNCT license have not been finalized, but the Killeen station falls within KWTX-TV’s larger regional market that includes Waco, Bryan-College Station, Temple, Killeen and Belton.
“We see great potential in this complex market,” Wright said.
Whatever KWTX does with the license would be to strengthen KWTX’s service to the area, he said.
The end to KNCT-TV does not affect public radio station KNCT-FM (91.3), which will continue broadcasting from the college without any changes. The college also will continue to offer an associate degree in communication and media technology.
“Only the TV piece is going away,” said Max Rudolph, department chair and KNCT general manager.
Rudolph, who has been general manager for 38 years, is retiring from KNCT and the college but will stay to handle the final details of the license transference, he said.
The Killeen-Temple public television station started broadcasting in November 1970 as Central Texas’ first public television station. In 1978, it started broadcasting its signal into the Waco area through a low-power translator. The Waco service became a full-power station KCTF, Channel 34, in 1989, evolving into KWBU-TV five years later with the support of Baylor University.
Budget shortfalls forced KWBU-TV to go off the air in 2010, although its public radio counterpart, KWBU-FM (103.3) continues to broadcast.