NET Television’s 60 Anniversary Celebrates Its Educational Focus

News Release Date: 
September 24, 2015

For Immediate Release

NET Television’s 60 Anniversary Celebrates Its Educational Focus

LINCOLN, Neb. (Sept. 24, 2015) – As NET Television’s year-long 60th anniversary celebration comes to a close this fall, the public media organization is celebrating its award-winning achievements, successful partnerships and growth from humble beginnings to an early pioneer in educational television.

Officially launched as KUON-TV Channel 12 on Nov. 1, 1954, NET became the nation’s ninth educational television station in the country and now operates a statewide network with nine television and nine radio stations. 

“For 60 years at NET, we’ve worked to inform, engage and inspire the citizens of Nebraska,” said NET’s General Manager Mark Leonard. “While technology changes the way we do that, we remain committed to providing the very best in public service media through our programs, community outreach and engagement. We are also thankful for the membership support of our viewers and the people of Nebraska who help us to continue to do that.”

To celebrate the milestone, PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger will visit NET staff, donors and members of the community Sept. 24-25.

Kerger joined PBS as its sixth president and chief executive in March 2006. Since her arrival, Kerger has made particularly strong commitments to the arts, news and public affairs, high-quality content for education, diversity and the use of new technology to bring public media into the lives of all Americans.

PBS and its member stations, including NET, are America’s most trusted institutions for 12 consecutive years.

Education is NET’s middle name, and programs like “NOVA,” “Nature,” “FRONTLINE” and “Masterpiece” bring science, trusted news, technology and the arts to Nebraska with 906,000 people tuning in to NET Television each week.

Even in its beginnings, educational television was NET’s focus.

Bob Schlater, Norris Heineman and Jack McBride In 1955, KUON, in cooperation with the Nebraska State Department of Education, NU and Lincoln area schools began experimenting with instructional telecasts – everything from Spanish and French to English composition.

Today, NET’s digital content and technology are enriching classrooms. NET’s Virtual Learning Library is a free, online tool for educators, students and parents. It connects more than 4,500 Nebraska teachers with nearly 100,000 topics, including English, math, science, social studies and the arts.

NET is also a Ready to Learn public television station – one of 21 across the country and is committed to connecting Nebraska children and families from across the station with educational resources. Sixteen events were held this year across the state from Minden to Schuyler.

NET’s State of Education in Nebraska television series tackles subjects from poverty to preparing for kindergarten, bringing together national, state and local experts to discuss issues affecting the education of Nebraska’s youth.

A Brief NET History and Highlights

NET’s history starts with Jack McBride, who was hired by the university’s public relations department to produce educational programs for the state’s four commercial TV stations. Not long after Midwest media tycoon John Fetzer acquired channels 10 and 12 in Lincoln, and in a move to eliminate competition, offered KUON-TV Channel 12 to then UNL Chancellor Clifford Hardin. 

Public television was born in Nebraska.

NET Television had its beginnings at the KOLN Channel 10 studios, sharing space for three years. The stations had to take turns broadcasting, so when KOLN was live, KUON had to broadcast a film and vice versa.

In 1956, the Federal Communications Commission granted the University of Nebraska Board of Regents control of the KUON-TV Channel 12 license. In 1957, it began broadcasting from the Temple Building on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s City Campus.

In 1969, land was purchased at 1800 North 33rd St. adjacent to UNL’s East Campus where the new center was built and operates today. Ground was broken in 1970 with the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications Center dedicated June 4, 1972. Jack McBride at ground breaking

The center is named for Senator Terry M Carpenter who introduced legislature in 1969 to fund the center and McBride, NET’s founding general manager, who led the organization for 43 years. Rod Bates took the helm as general manager in 1996 and retired in June 2013. Leonard began his tenure as general manager and CEO in 2013.

Over the last 60 years, NET has provided gavel-to-gavel Nebraska Legislative coverage since 1980. Nebraskans can turn to NET Television and online at a netNebraska.org. NET and the State of Nebraska also launched the free mobile app Nebraska Capitol Live so citizens “on the go” can follow the statehouse.

NET has won more than 900 awards including Emmys, Teacher’s Choice trophies and awards in honor of George Foster Peabody, Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

NET broadcasts 12 hours of educational programming for children each weekday with iconic programs like “Sesame Street” and “Curious George.”

Locally produced programs and series like “Backyard Farmer” – the longest-running, locally-produced television show in the country -- help Nebraskans get their gardens growing, while “Nebraska Stories” captures the spirit of Nebraska with compelling, personal tales and clever storytelling.

NET also is Nebraska’s Home for Sports – broadcasting more than 200 hours of live high school and collegiate sports programming each year. Nebraska and NET Television’s popular series “Big Red Wrap-Up” is the only live, view call-in Husker program in the Cornhusker state, keeping fans updated on the latest gridiron action and news.

NET’s newest documentary “Your, Willa Cather” reveals Cather through surviving letters, found hidden away in drawers, trunks and archives. The NET Television documentary and NET Radio series is accompanied by an eBook, website and social reading club.

During 2014-15, NET provided valuable resources for families facing cancer in Nebraska, guidance for those dealing with issues affecting Nebraska veterans, support for those working to close the African American achievement gap in Omaha and told the story of water through partner project the Platte Basin Timelapse.

Omaha was the site for Antiques Roadshow, airing this winter, and PBS Kids Mr. Steve had entire families dancing to the beat when he performed packed concerts in Omaha and Lincoln.

NET operates the statewide public service network which includes NET Television, NET Radio, NET Learning Services and NET Technology Services. For more information about NET, Nebraska’s PBS and NPR stations, visit netNebraska.org.

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RELEASE WRITEN BY: Sandi Karstens, 402-470-6578, or email at skarstens@netNebraska.org