Today, business will continue as usual for the crew behind the scenes of the local PBS affiliate, KNCT-TV, at Central Texas College. There will be no out-of-the-ordinary programming. Viewers can still look forward to the PBS Newshour on the main Channel 46. Kids can enjoy shows like "Arthur" and "Sesame Street" watching the 24-hour PBS Kids on 46.2. “Do-it-yourself” types might be persuaded to sit on 46 – the "Create" channel – for a while.
No more around 11:59 p.m.
After 48 years, the flip of a switch on a transmitter will change programming to static, and two employees will no longer work at CTC.
KNCT-TV, at Channel 46, was scheduled to be a “repacked” television station, as mandated by the Federal Communications Commission. It would have had to relocate to channel 17 by March 2020, according to CTC spokesman Bruce Vasbinder, and that repacking would have cost $4.4 million in procedural costs.
CTC’s Board of Trustees elected in February not to pursue that repacking. As a result, KNCT-TV will cease broadcasting after running through Friday. Antenna users turning to the channel starting at 12:01 a.m. Saturday will see a blank screen. Cable and satellite subscribers will see a message stating the channel is no longer available.
Max Rudolph, outgoing chair for the TV/Radio department, said the board was forced to make a tough decision, but an inevitable one.
With the rising cost of and inexorable advance of technology, CTC would have to persistently update hardware to keep pace with rapidly developing software, according to the chair.
“I think the board's choice to focus on the internet and the Central Texas College website is an absolute brilliant decision,” Rudolph said. “Central Texas College is not getting out of the video business. We’re just moving it from TV over to the CTC website.”
Factors including the surge of YouTube over the past decade have contributed to what has been deemed a more modern approach to media curriculum at CTC. Hardly anybody wants to sit through a program 26 minutes and 46 seconds long, the required run-time for KNCT-TV, according to Rudolph.
“The CTC website has more unique visitors than I could ever produce with KNCT television,” he said. “That audience is worldwide. Central Texas College is worldwide.”
Rudolph said some will bemoan the departure of KNCT for sentimental reasons, but noted those with Spectrum cable in the area will still be able to watch PBS programming through KLRU, the Austin PBS station.
Antenna users don’t have that same guarantee, but officials are encouraging viewers to visit www.fcc.gov/media/engineering/dtvmaps to find the best station according to location. PBS programming is available online at www.pbs.org/anywhere/home.
On Tuesday, the college board voted to accept the transfer of the public television station KNCT-TV to Gray Television, owner of KWTX in Waco and KBTX in Bryan-College Station. FCC approval is still pending, but the transfer would allow Gray Television to broadcast its programming on Channel 46.
Gray Television could not be reached for comment.
Looking forward, the KNCT studio will still be utilized for media geared toward the college’s modernized Communication and Media Technology coursework. KNCT-FM 91.3 public radio will continue.
As far as the TV station’s lasting memory, Rudolph wants the public to know that since 1970, countless students who worked with the station are now in broadcast careers. But the scope of media is changing.
“We’ve had a lot of students who have gone through here, have worked here, and in all honesty, I’d like it to be remembered for the students."