PBS CEO helps KSMQ switch to high definition

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, June 2, 2015

AUSTIN — After officially kicking off its high-definition programming with children’s show “Super Why!” at 2 p.m. last Wednesday, KSMQ Public Television celebrated the change Monday night.

Public Broadcasting Service CEO and President Paula Kerger traveled to Austin from Washington, D.C., to attend Monday’s “Flip the Switch” celebration at the station, which is located on the west Austin campus of Riverland Community College.

“I am here in Austin today to celebrate the premier broadcast of KSMQ in high definition,” Kerger said. “This is a significant day for us for the station, the service to this community to bring to the community public television in all its beauty in high definition, but also it’s significant because we believe this may be the last or one of the last stations to convert to HD.”

Email newsletter signup

Kerger’s visit marked the first time a PBS head visited KSMQ. KSMQ President Eric Olson invited Kerger to the event and was excited when she called to say she would be able to make it.

“I said, ‘You’d make my day if you came down here,’ and she said, ‘Sure I’d love to,’” he said. “So that was really a surprise (and has) been really fun.”

Kerger has led the nation’s 350 nonprofit public television stations since 2008 and is its longest serving leader. She was happy to be in Austin for the event and praised KSMQ for its big step forward.

“This is a station that really does a lot in this community,” she said. “It has a very small staff and is just very committed to being an important part of the community. So I’m proud to be here. I’m proud to stand along side of them when they have such a significant moment in their history.”

High-definition television provides a picture resolution that is substantially higher than that of standard-definition television for those viewers with newer televisions. Olson is excited for the better, more clear picture and sound this switch will bring to their channel.

“There will be a much better picture resolution and quality of sound than before,” Olson said.

“Even old eyes like mine can tell the difference,” he added with a laugh.

The station now has a new production facility called master control, which features a few banks of servers and a bank of programming screens.

KSMQ has 11 employees, which Olson said is small for a TV station. Although the station mans four channels — KSMQ, MHZ-World View, Create, The Minnesota Channel — only KSMQ will be broadcast in HD. Olson hopes the other channels will also switch to high definition soon.

“We’ve got to start growth somewhere, and this is a wonderful place to start,” he said.

The move took two years of preparation and fundraising. The $500,000 project is a significant investment for a small station like KSMQ. The Hormel Foundation contributed $100,000 towards the cost.

“For us it’s a huge accomplishment,” Olson said.

Olson noted this is the first partnership with The Hormel Foundation and it really helped get employees excited about raising funds for the project.

The switch to high definition won’t change scheduling or programming for KSMQ. Olson said the last few years they were already shooting local shows in HD in preparation for a change.

“So our library is full of HD content,” he said. “So when we re-air things, bring back programs, they’ll be seen in HD. So that will be a really cool thing.”

Kerger said PBS will continue to look for ways to stay updated and give the public the best they have to offer, and said KSMQ has already been doing that.

“Their willingness to really do what it takes to get the signal up I think just speaks volumes,” she said. “I think about the tenacity of making sure that no matter the size or station, they serve the community in a very big way.”