KPLE-TV prepares for changes after funding cut

Station Manager Robin Durham speaks with Bishop John Stevenson during 'It's a God Thing.'

A Killeen TV station that has been part of the Christian community for almost 25 years is undergoing changes after TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network), a California-based Christian network, eliminated the local station's funding in January.

TBN let the station’s management know in late December they would not be renewing the contract in which TBN gave KPLE-TV $7,000 a month toward its operations.

“For 24 years TBN sent monthly funding, an amount not huge but important,” said station manager Robin Durham. “They never explained why, so I suspect they took a different direction in their mission or budget. We always have been careful with money; we’re frugal but this has cut into our budget.”

A TBN representative confirmed the change.

“TBN did not renew its ‘low power affiliate’ agreement with KPLE-TV for 2018,” said John Casoria, TBN special operations group manager. “The reason for non-renewal is based on basic business practices centered on viewership numbers and simple economics.”

Durham said a few years back TBN cut other smaller stations but KPLE-TV made it through that time. This year, the station was one of five losing funding.

“We do not have the final [viewership] numbers for the quarter confirmed and completed yet,” Casoria said. “However, preliminary numbers show a fluctuation down and up over the quarter, which is within the normal margins for viewership fluctuation. TBN has a fairly stable viewing audience.”  

A change in direction

KPLE-TV has its roots in the heart of a former child development teacher, who still appears on set on occasion.

“I just thought Killeen ought to have a Christian TV station,” said founder Catherine Mason. “It was something we needed with all the crime going on.”

Mason started out with a big antenna in her yard and through a lottery system the station was accepted by the Federal Communications Commission.

“I thought it must be a God thing,” Mason said.

The station has grown since then and has a building on Elms Road in Killeen from which to broadcast.

Durham said each week on air is a miracle.

“I’m confident the Lord will provide because I think he wants us here,” she said.

The station’s management is reaching out to the community to raise money.

“The Gideon’s Army 300 fundraiser is ongoing; it’s part of our way to permanently compensate for the shortfall,” Durham said, adding they are a third of their way to the goal. The fundraiser’s monthly goal is for 300 people a month to donate $25, more than making up for the loss in TBN funding.

Serving the community

Durham said the station does more than spread the Gospel.

They invite leaders of agencies and churches from all over Central Texas to talk on air about their services. 

“The love of Jesus is revealed by being a Good Samaritan and making sure that people’s practical needs are met as well as hearing the Gospel,” Durham said. “Part of the Christian mission is to feed, clothe and house those in need.”

Durham said KPLE-TV attempts to connect viewers with services and nonprofits, whether Christian-based or secular.

“By interviewing nonprofit leaders and having specials, we can let the public know what help is available,” she said.

The future

Durham is considering the station’s future even while planning the celebration for June of the station’s 25th anniversary of being on air.

“It’s been an interesting time, and I know Roku and live streaming online are the future,” Durham said, adding they are raising money to go digital by late summer or early fall.

“I believe the community will support us because they value the station and they’re aware of the public service we provide,” Durham said.

KPLE-TV still broadcasts TBN programming during early morning hours and over the weekends.

“I’m confident we’re going forward as planned,” Durham said. “I’m thankful for the generosity and support of viewers, businesses and churches the entire way.”

KPLE-TV is on cable channel 45 and digital channel 31.

Emily Hilley-Sierzchula is reporter for the Killeen Daily Herald. Reach her at emilys@kdhnews.com

Herald reporter

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