State network

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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.[1]

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.[1] 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 ABCWISN-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 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).[2] 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.[3] 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.

On December 21, 2018, WDAY-TV in Fargo, North Dakota became a statewide and regional network of ABC affiliates for North Dakota, northwestern Minnesota, eastern Montana, and southern Manitoba, Canada, as WDAZ-TV ended local newscasts broadcasting from Grand Forks, North Dakota to become a simulcast of WDAY-TV.

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[edit]


Crystal128-tv.svg This film, television or video-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it with reliably sourced additions.

Non-commercial educational[edit]

Note: Most are PBS member stations unless otherwise noted.


  1. ^ a b Kathie B. Martin. "Alabama Public Television". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  2. ^ Dick Golembiewski (2008). Milwaukee Television History: The Analog Years. Marquette University Press. pp. 230–231. ISBN 0-87462-055-4.
  3. ^ "KARD-TV". Kansas Historical Society. August 2013. Retrieved February 14, 2015.