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A state network in the United States broadcasting industry is a quasi-regional network of television stations, composed of a designated flagship station that originates the programming and several full-power satellite stations and low-power translators that relay a full-time or part-time simulcast of the main station's content throughout sections if not the entirety of a U.S. state and, in some cases, portions of adjoining states.
This type of setup is more commonly associated with non-commercial educational broadcasting; educational state networks (or "member networks"), which generally involve member stations of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), are common in many states where most of the cities are not large enough to support a standalone non-commercial station. Commercially licensed state networks that transmit programming from one of the major commercial broadcast networks (and in most cases, since shortly before the digital television transition, any multicast services carried by the originating station) exist mainly in markets covering large swaths of territory. The local affiliates in these markets usually require at least three full-power stations to adequately cover the market.
Under U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations, the parent station in a commercial state network and all of its satellites are counted together as one station, rather than individual stations.
The groundwork of the first state network in the United States was laid in 1953, when Alabama Governor Gordon Persons pushed the Alabama State Legislature to pass legislation to establish the Alabama Educational Television Commission, wanting to ensure that the entire state would receive educational programming. Persons was well aware that much of Alabama was still very rural – outside of the state's three largest cities, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile – and therefore, was too thinly populated to support multiple standalone educational television stations. The bill used to form the Commission did not include any state funding, however the Alabama State Docks donated $50,000 as initial support. After the Commission was formed, it requested construction permits from the FCC to build broadcasting facilities for four television stations, all of which would air the same programming throughout their broadcast day fed from a central studio in Birmingham.
On January 7, 1955, WTIQ (channel 7) in Talladega, Alabama signed on as the nation's ninth non-commercial educational television station. Then on April 28, the AETC signed on WBIQ (channel 10) in Birmingham. This was the beginning of Alabama Educational Television (renamed the Alabama Public Television Network in the 1960s and shortened to Alabama Public Television in 1988), the first operational educational television network. It made its first broadcast as a network shortly after WBIQ signed on. Seven other transmitters were added to the APT network, eventually providing educational programming to 98% of the state. Each of the stations would use microwave towers to transmit their signals across a span of roughly 52,423 square miles (135,770 km2) throughout the state, adapting transmission methods originally used by the Australian postal system for communications purposes to distribute programming from each transmitter tower. Since then, 25 other states have started public television networks, all based on Alabama's model.
The Badger Television Network, which debuted in January 1958 on three Wisconsin television stations that were primary affiliates of ABC – WISN-TV (channel 12) in Milwaukee, WFRV-TV (channel 5, now a CBS affiliate) in Green Bay and WKOW-TV (channel 27) in Madison – used a model different from other state networks, intending to moreso mirror a traditional television network by pooling simultaneous programming among its otherwise separately programmed stations (with the Milwaukee studios of WISN-TV serving as the production center of three of its programs). The Badger network ceased operations after only eight months, existing until August 8, 1958.
In 1959, NBC affiliate KCKT in Great Bend, Kansas, signed on a satellite station, KGLD (channel 11) in Garden City, forming the two-station "Tri-Circle Network". They were joined in 1959 by KOMC-TV (channel 8) in Oberlin, resulting in the creation of the first true commercial state network. Then in 1962, the Federal Communications Commission collapsed central and western Kansas into the Wichita-Hutchinson market. This created the largest television market in terms of land mass in the United States, stretching across 70 counties in Kansas and far southern Nebraska. KCKT's owner, Central Kansas Television, then purchased Wichita's KARD-TV (channel 3) and combined it with its existing three-station network. The new group was known as the "Kansas State Network," based at KARD. In order to help its viewers think of its four stations as part of one large network, in 1983, KARD changed its call letters to KSNW and had its repeaters adopt similar call letters under the "KSN" structure (KOMC changed its calls to KSNK, KCKT changed theirs to KSNC and KGLD became KSNG). Two other stations, KTSB (channel 27) in the state capital of Topeka and KTVJ (channel 16) in Joplin, Missouri joined the network as partial satellites not long after, and changed their respective callsigns to KSNT and KSNF. In the early 1990s, then-owners SJL Communications ended KSNT and KSNF's microwave link to KSNW due to the monetary expense, and began maintaining their own programming schedules (even so, both stations retain callsigns bearing the "KSN" name, while KSNF continued to brand itself as "KSN16," before amending it to "KSN" in 2007). The three other major network affiliates in the Wichita-Hutchinson market (KWCH-TV (channel 12), KAKE (channel 10) and KSAS-TV (channel 24)) eventually launched their own relay networks to cover the market.
Often, repeater stations of a commercial state network will place local news inserts over some portions of local newscasts aired by the parent station. For years, many of them aired separate full-fledged newscasts of their own, though due to budget concerns this has become less common. Additionally, the repeaters usually air separate local advertising from that broadcast by the parent station.
Some state networks use callsigns that differ by only one letter between stations. Alabama Public Television's stations utilitz WxIQ (where x is letters A through I) as their callsign structure, while UNC-TV stations in North Carolina use WUNx (where x is a letter that is random, or is relevant to a location in its broadcast range).
List of state networks
- KAKEland Television Network - statewide simulcast on three stations in Kansas, plus two repeaters. KAKE in Wichita is the anchor. Included are KUPK, Garden City, and KLBY, Colby. This is a network of ABC stations.
- Kansas Broadcasting System - statewide simulcast on four stations. KWCH-DT in Wichita, is the flagship. Affiliates are KBSD-DT, Dodge City, KBSH-DT, Hays, and KBSL-DT, Goodland. This is a network of CBS affiliates.
- Kansas State Network (KSN) - statewide simulcast on four NBC stations as explained above plus one NBC repeater in Salina.
- Fox Kansas - statewide simulcast on three Fox stations, plus two repeaters. KSAS-TV in Wichita is the flagship. Affiliates are KAAS-TV in Salina and KOCW in Hoisington.
- KELOland Television Network - statewide simulcast on four stations in South Dakota. KELO-TV, Sioux Falls is the anchor. KDLO-TV, Florence/Watertown, KPLO-TV, Reliance/Pierre and KCLO, Rapid City, South Dakota are the affiliates of the in-state CBS network. Although Rapid City is in the Mountain Time Zone, KCLO broadcasts on Central Time, which means its prime-time lineup airs from 6-9 p.m. instead of 7-10 p.m.
- KX Television - regional network of CBS affiliates, owned by Reiten Television, in central and western North Dakota. KXMB-TV in Bismarck is the flagship, simulcasting programming on KXMC-TV in Minot (which airs separate local newscasts from KXMB), KXMA-TV in Dickinson, and KXMD-TV in Williston. With a joint sales agreement to operate Forum Communications' ABC affiliates KBMY / KMCY, the KX stations also share news and sports resources with Forum's eastern ND ABC stations WDAY-TV in Fargo and WDAZ-TV in Grand Forks.
- Montana Television Network - statewide network of CBS affiliates, all but one are owned by the Evening Post Publishing Company: KTVQ - Billings, Montana, KRTV - Great Falls, Montana and its repeater, KXLH-LD - Helena, Montana, KXLF-TV - Butte, Montana and its repeater, KBZK - Bozeman, Montana, KPAX-TV - Missoula, Montana and its repeater KAJJ-CA - Kalispell, Montana. The sole private affiliate is KXGN - Glendive, Montana.
- NBC North Dakota - statewide network of NBC affiliates, owned by Gray Television. KFYR-TV in Bismarck is the flagship, simulcasting programming on KMOT in Minot, KQCD-TV in Dickinson, and KUMV-TV in Williston. KVLY-TV in Fargo, while broadcasting a different programming schedule, shares news and sports personnel with its western ND NBC sister stations.
Note: Most are PBS member stations unless otherwise noted.
- Alabama Public Television - statewide simulcast on nine stations
- AlaskaOne - statewide simulcast on three stations; replaced with Alaska Public Television
- Arkansas Educational Television Network - statewide simulcast on eleven stations
- Rocky Mountain PBS - statewide simulcast on five stations in Colorado
- Connecticut Public Television - statewide simulcast on four stations
- Georgia Public Broadcasting - statewide simulcast on nine stations
- PBS Hawaii - statewide simulcast on two stations, plus repeaters
- Idaho Public Television - statewide simulcast on five stations
- Iowa Public Television - statewide simulcast on nine stations
- Smoky Hills Public Television - simulcast on four stations and a series of translators in Western Kansas. Although this network covers most of the Wichita market, the Wichita PBS affiliate, KPTS, is not a part of the network. Topeka's PBS station, KTWU, is also not a part of the network.
- Kentucky Educational Television - statewide simulcast on sixteen stations
- Louisiana Public Broadcasting - statewide simulcast on six stations; LPB also owns 50% of WLAE-TV, a non-PBS outlet in New Orleans
- Maine Public Broadcasting Network - statewide simulcast on five stations
- Maryland Public Television - statewide simulcast on six stations
- Mississippi Public Broadcasting - statewide simulcast on eight stations and two repeaters
- Montana PBS - statewide simulcast on four stations and several repeaters
- NET Television - statewide simulcast on nine stations and several translators in Nebraska
- New Hampshire Public Television - statewide simulcast on three stations
- NJN/NJTV - statewide simulcast on four stations in New Jersey, with some simulcasting of New Jersey-specific programming done by Newark-licensed WNET, which focuses on the Tri-state area and has Manhattan-based studios and operates NJTV through a subsidiary.
- UNC-TV - statewide simulcast on 12 stations plus repeaters in North Carolina
- Prairie Public Television - statewide simulcast on seven stations in North Dakota
- Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) - statewide simulcast on four stations and several repeaters in Oklahoma
- Oregon Public Broadcasting - statewide simulcast on five stations. The PBS outlet serving Southwestern Oregon, Southern Oregon Public Television, is not part of the network, though it carries some OPB programs.
- South Carolina ETV - statewide simulcast on eleven stations
- South Dakota Public Broadcasting - Statewide simulcast on nine stations and several repeaters
- Vermont Public Television - statewide simulcast on four stations
- West Virginia Public Broadcasting - statewide simulcast on three stations, plus repeaters
- Wisconsin Public Television - statewide simulcast (except the Milwaukee market) on six stations, plus repeaters. Milwaukee PBS, serving the Milwaukee market through its two stations, carries some WPT programming.
- Wyoming PBS - statewide simulcast on three stations, plus repeaters
- Kathie B. Martin. "Alabama Public Television". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
- Dick Golembiewski (2008). Milwaukee Television History: The Analog Years. Marquette University Press. pp. 230–231. ISBN 0-87462-055-4.
- "KARD-TV". Kansas Historical Society. August 2013. Retrieved February 14, 2015.