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KET History

“Across Kentucky, I saw the heroic struggle to provide equal education thwarted by the barrier of unequal resources. It was essential that we harness the power of television to assure the education and enrichment of our people so they would have every possible opportunity. We could not afford to accept less.”

–O. Leonard Press, KET founder and first executive director

With these words, KET signed on the air for the first time on September 23, 1968, to equalize education and opportunity for all of Kentucky’s citizens.

Today, anchored in its legacy of educational excellence, community engagement and a commitment to innovation, KET continues to shape the landscape of public television, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural fabric of the Commonwealth.

For an intimate perspective on the remarkable journey of KET, delve into The KET Story: A Personal Account by O. Leonard Press, offering firsthand insights into the organization’s transformative history. Explore the book

  • 1962
  • The General Assembly establishes the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television; O. Leonard Press becomes KET’s first executive director.


  • KET signs on the air September 23, broadcasting weekdays during school hours on the second largest land-based network in the world via a statewide, 15-transmitter network.
  • Kentucky Is My Land is KET’s first instructional production.


  • Weekday broadcasts expand to evenings.
  • Sesame Street premieres.


  • Julia Child’s The French Chef premieres on PBS, pioneering how-to programming for television.


  • Friends of KET, a statewide network of volunteers, is incorporated.
  • Masterpiece Theatre premieres.


  • PBS provides unprecedented coverage of the Watergate hearings.


  • Comment on Kentucky premieres with host Al Smith.


  • The GED® on TV series begins national broadcast.
  • Television broadcast expands to seven days a week.


  • Universe & I is KET’s first nationally distributed instructional TV series.
  • The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, now PBS NewsHour, premieres.


  • College on TV telecourses launch.
  • Coverage of the Kentucky General Assembly begins.


  • This Old House and The Victory Garden premiere.


  • KET Fund for Excellence is established.


  • Enterprise division is created to market educational programs nationally.


  • The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross premieres.


  • Nightly open-captioned news service begins.


  • Second-generation GED® series and study-at-home initiative launched.
  • Kentucky Afield, the nation’s longest-running outdoors program, debuts on KET.
  • KET Kids Club established.


  • Summer Celebration event is established at Donamire Farm.


  • Interactive Distance Learning service begins.
  • Live broadcasts of professional development seminars for Kentucky educators begin.


  • Ken Burns’ The Civil War sets PBS audience records.
  • John Sherman Cooper: Gentleman from Kentucky premieres at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.


  • Virginia Gaines Fox named Executive Director and CEO.
  • Star Channels Distance Learning system receives national Innovations Award from the Ford Foundation.


  • O. Leonard Press Telecommunications Center is dedicated.


  • GED®—Get It! airs nationwide as the centerpiece of a national outreach project.


  • Kentucky Tonight premieres.


  • Kentucky Life premieres.
  • launches.
  • The Commonwealth Fund for KET is established with John R. Hall as chairman.
  • W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Endowment for the Arts is established.


  • Mountain Born: The Jean Ritchie Story and Signature “George C. Wolfe” premiere nationally on PBS.
  • LiteracyLink, a video and online project featuring GED® and workforce basic skills content, is developed.


  • WKPC, Channel 15 in Louisville, merges with the statewide network and KET2 launches.


  • Street Skills, a teen-oriented safe-driving series, is nominated for a national Emmy Award.
  • Antiques Roadshow welcomes 7,000 treasure hunters at Louisville’s Convention Center.
  • Signature “Barbara Kingsolver” airs nationally on PBS.
  • O. Leonard Press Endowment for Public Affairs programming is established.


  • Kentucky’s first digital television transmitter is activated, KET’s WKPC-DT in Louisville.
  • KET produces public television’s first drama in high definition: American Shorts: “The Ryan Interview,” starring Ashley Judd.
  • Workplace Essential Skills is unveiled at the National Press Club.
  • video-streaming initiative is piloted.


  • More than 10,000 Kentuckians read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees as part of a statewide literacy campaign.


  • The statewide digital transmission system is activated.
  • Television broadcast service expands to 24 hours a day.
  • GED® Connection, KET’s third-generation test preparation series, premieres nationally on PBS.
  • Jubilee premieres nationally.
  • Executive Director and CEO Virginia Gaines Fox retires and receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


  • Malcolm Wall named Executive Director and CEO.


  • Legislative coverage expands to live broadcast and online video-streaming.
  • Kentucky’s Last Great Places: A Kentucky Life Special becomes the most successful local pledge program on KET.
  • Louisville Outreach office opens.


  • KET EncycloMedia, the predecessor to PBS LearningMedia, launches and provides online multimedia resources to Kentucky’s public schools.
  • KET’s “Be Well Kentucky” health initiative launches.
  • Connections with Renee Shaw premieres.


  • One to One with Bill Goodman premieres.
  • Louisville Life premieres.


  • Antiques Roadshow returns to Louisville.
  • Endowment for Kentucky Productions is established.
  • The Everlasting Stream airs nationally on PBS.


  • Kentucky Channel launches.
  • Kentucky Muse premieres.


  • O. Leonard Press Telecommunications Center transitions to a high-definition production and broadcast facility.
  • Ceasing analog transmissions, KET broadcasts three digital channels, 24/7 on 16 transmitters statewide.


  • Education Matters debuts.
  • Friends of KET receive the National Friends of Public Broadcasting’s Grassroots Advocacy Award.
  • Kentucky Green Banks initiative helps implement energy efficiency measures in the network center.
  • Shae Hopkins named Executive Director and CEO.
  • Everyday Science for Preschoolers launches.


  • Downton Abbey premieres.
  • Kentucky on iTunes U launches, with KET as a lead partner.
  • A studio adjacent to the Louisville Outreach office opens.
  • KET’s Education Division receives the Enterprise and Innovation Award from the National Educational Telecommunications Association.
  • Thoroughbred airs nationally on PBS.
  • KET receives the Association of Public Television Stations National Advocacy Award.


  • Kentucky Collectibles premieres.


  • A live uplink between the International Space Station and middle school students is broadcast.
  • PBS LearningMedia debuts, with KET, WGBH, and WNET as primary content producers.
  • The Everyday Learning Collaborative for early childhood education is established.
  • Morehead State University begins offering KET Distance Learning courses for dual credit.


  • FastForward launches nationally as the most advanced multiplatform learning system for GED test preparation.
  • PBS/KET online video app launches.
  • Dropping Back In premieres nationally.
  • K-12 professional development resources set an annual record with more than 84,000 certificates awarded.


  • Kentucky Society Daughters of the American Revolution recognizes KET with its State Media Award.
  • Kentucky Health debuts from KET’s Louisville studio.


  • Legislative Production Center in Frankfort adds a studio and is upgraded to high definition.
  • The Hilltoppers premieres at Western Kentucky University.
  • Kentucky Veterans of the Vietnam War: In Their Own Words premieres at events in Lexington, Owensboro and Louisville.
  • John R. Hall Endowment for Education is established.
  • Forgotten Fame: The Marion Miley Story premieres.


  • Journey to Recovery premieres as part of the Inside Opioid Addiction initiative.
  • KET PBS KIDS channel launches on-air, on mobile, and online.
  • KET receives the Dr. Samuel Robinson Award from the Kentucky Board of Education for leadership, commitment, and service to equity and opportunity in education for all Kentucky children.


  • The Kentucky Historical Society recognizes KET with the dedication of a historical marker at the Network Center.
  • KET celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first broadcast on September 23, 1968.
  • Antiques Roadshow visits Louisville for a third time.


  • KET’s Big Family: The Story of Bluegrass Music premieres nationally on PBS.
  • KET founder O. Leonard Press passes and was remembered at a memorial service at KET.
  • KET and the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet unveil In Demand.


  • More than 100 employees transitioned to telecommuting, including capabilities for remote editing and remote master control, to ensure uninterrupted 24/7 operations and services.
  • COVID-19 information is provided including online resources, daily and weekly programming and forums.
  • With schools closed, KET Education responds with a variety of learn-at-home resources.
  • Workplace Essential Skills multimedia series is redesigned as online courses featuring seven high-demand career fields.
  • Kentucky Seasons showcases the beauty of the Commonwealth.


  • Let’s Learn Kentucky debuts to address the kindergarten-readiness gap.
  • Walter Tevis: A Writer’s Gambit premieres.
  • Ken Burns’ Muhammad Ali premieres with Louisville garnering the highest major market ratings in the nation.
  • Angels on Horseback: Midwives in the Mountain premieres on PBS.


  • KET launches its first nightly public affairs program, Kentucky Edition.
  • The Farmer and the Foodie is produced by KET and distributed nationally.
  • The Pack Horse Librarians of Appalachia premieres.
  • NEXTGEN TV broadcast launches in Louisville as KET is among the first 15 public television stations to make the technology upgrade.


  • Chip Polston debuts as the new host of Kentucky Life.
  • The Alice and Wade Houston Story premieres.
  • NEXTGEN TV broadcast launches in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, and KET launches public television’s first video-on-demand app for NEXTGEN TV.
  • Renee Shaw honored with National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Silver Circle Award for her lasting contributions to television industry.
  • New weekly series Inside Louisville premieres.
  • Stars of Tomorrow Opera Gala featuring UK Opera Theatre and Opera Lex premieres.
  • Jim Host: Game Changer premieres.
  • The Legacy of Black Horsemen premieres.