The decision by the Central Texas College Board of Trustees to eventually close KNCT was not an easy one.
“I have been with CTC for 45 years, and no one loves that station more than me,” said Jim Yeonopolus, chancellor.
During the CTC Board of Trustees meeting last Tuesday, board members Don Armstrong and Mari Meyer opposed rescinding the repack - or move - of KNCT from channel 46 to channel 18, which was initially approved by the board at the meeting in April 2017.
When making the decision in 2017, CTC expected the Federal Communications Commission to reimburse the college for the $4.4 million cost of moving the KNCT channel.
In the months that followed, CTC learned the U.S. Congress had authorized a reimbursement of only 60 percent of the cost.
That would leave CTC with expenses of $1.76 million to complete the mandated change.
Coupled with the average $418,000 annual loss the station incurred over the past five years, the cost was too great for CTC’s already strained budget, according to Barbara Merlo, CTC spokeswoman.
The community members who supported KNCT through yearly pledges numbered a mere 801, Merlo said. “Most of the other revenue comes from Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants and from CTC.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, Armstrong asked that the matter be tabled by the board as long as possible. “The station is important to the Central Texas area,” he said.
“The area is in a growing state,” said Armstrong, citing the current $426 million bond issue on the May 5 ballot for the Killeen Independent School District, growth in Copperas Cove as indicators.
Retired Brig. Gen. Rex Weaver, another CTC board member, appreciated Armstrong’s viewpoint, but said, “We’ve been dealing with this for over two years.”
Yeonopolus reluctantly faced the reality. “I searched long and hard for the past three years to find an alternate solution to the one that I had to recommend.”
As to the loss of KNCT, how it reflects on the local community is unclear.
“I am sure it was a difficult decision for the CTC board and administration,” said John Craft, superintendent of the Killeen Independent School District. “I would venture to say students will adapt and discover new mediums available for educational programming. Change leads to new opportunities.”
“The City of Killeen administration would not have an opinion on the topic,” said Hilary Shine, Killeen city spokeswoman.
Officials from the City of Copperas Cove and the Copperas Cove Independent School District also had no comment on the impact of KNCT’s eventual closure.
When KNCT does cease operations, viewers who rely upon an antenna with a 50 mile range for their television signals might, or might not, be able to pick up PBS station KLRU from Austin, which is channel 18.1.
Another option would be to watch KLRU and PBS programs on the internet at http://video.klru.tv.
Merlo indicated the most likely option for cable or satellite subscribers would be that KNCT would be replaced in the local channel listing with KRLU or another area PBS affiliate.
Brian Anderson, spokesman for Spectrum Cable, would not confirm that statement.
DirecTV satellite service already offers a second PBS station in its local channel listings, according to Diane Brandon, AT&T spokeswoman: KAMU from Texas A&M University.
Another option for those with a Roku box, Amazon Fire or similar equipment, PBS programming and the PBS Kids channel are available for free on those systems.
The courses offered through CTC’s telecommunications department will be only minimally impacted, according to Yeonopolus. “We will continue to operate our radio station, and we will still provide degree and certificate programs in media production.”
KNCT station manager and CTC instructor Max Rudolph echoed that announcement. “CTC will retain its radio stations and academic department and continue local programming via internet streaming and on the CTC website. We are committed to providing students a laboratory production setting that prepares them for the jobs of the future.”
No date has been set by CTC for KNCT to cease broadcasting. The deadline for the repack was 2020, so it would happen by that date.
“KNCT did not fail,” Yeonopolus concluded. “The times have changed and we need to change with them.”