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KSPS History: Growing with Community Support

KSPS has grown and thrived for over 45 years thanks to the support of the community we serve. Today, KSPS broadcasts three channels, operates four educational cable channels and provides master control operations for two other stations. KSPS is seen by about two million households throughout the Inland Northwest and Canada by broadcast, translator systems, cable systems and satellite. KSPS produces national award-winning programming including historical documentaries, political coverage, health information and our signature feature magazine program, Northwest Profiles. Some 30,000 households in the United States and Canada are members of the Friends of KSPS and those memberships provide about three quarters of the annual budget for KSPS.


Spokane Public Schools is awarded a facilities grant for the planning and construction of an educational television station, KSHD-TV.  Temporary working quarters are located in the basement of Adams Elementary School.


KHQ-TV donates that land for the transmitter tower and KREM-TV contributes television equipment.  The FCC approves new call letters for the station, KSPS-TV, which reflect its connection with the school district.  Ground-breaking takes place.

April 24, 1967

KSPS-TV, licensed to Spokane Public School District #81, signs on and begins offering educational programming for eight hours a day.


pbs logo oldThe building is completed, Walt Schaar is appointed General Manager, and KSPS-TV becomes a charter member of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS).  This enables the station to offer new programming to fill non-school hours.


early board members Spokane Public Schools levy fails and severe budget cuts affect the station’s operations.  Ethel Grossman, Ron Miller and Lois Rubens form the Friends of Seven, a non-profit volunteer organization which is responsible for raising funds to offset the district’s budget crisis.  200 “Friends” join in the first year.


PBS and KSPS carry the Watergate hearings “live” from Capitol Hill.  The nation watches the proceedings and audiences rush to defend and support their local Public Television stations in the wake of President Richard Nixon’s threat to dismantle the PBS system.


early pledge driveThe Friends of Seven hold the first in a series of “Action Auctions" and begins to air on-air pledge drives. The non-profit fund-raising organization grows to 4,000 members and raises the money to purchase $629,000 worth of new equipment.  Their efforts enable KSPS to become one of the first full-color public television stations in the Pacific Northwest.  KSPS also receives satellite equipment from PBS to become the first station in the Inland Northwest to receive satellite network feeds.


PBS stations, including KSPS, set a new standard for the broadcast industry when they initiate Closed Captioning service for the hearing impaired, by authority of the Federal Communications Commission.


Patty Starkey is hired as the station’s new Executive Director of the Friends of Seven.


PBS is awarded an Emmy for “Outstanding Engineering Development” for pioneering the development of Closed Captioning technology.


Claude Kistler is appointed General Manager of KSPS-TV.


KSPS commits to a full-time Public Television schedule.  The new schedule requires the purchase of additional programs.  The Friends of Seven, now 15,000 strong, raise the necessary funds for new programming.


KSPS-TV starts broadcasting stereo TV audio.


first satellite dishKSPS starts delivering high-quality signals into Alberta and other parts of Canada.


KSPS is the first station in the Inland Northwest to offer Descriptive Video Service (DVS) for the visually impaired.  1993 is also the start of the design process for a new telecommunications facility.  Channel 40 in Missoula, Montana is activated.


Channel 44 in Coeur d’Alene and Channel 24 in Sandpoint, Idaho are activated.


Construction of the new KSPS facility is completed and station personnel move into the new facility.  KSPS installs a new transmitter and emergency generator.  KSPS broadcasts 24-hours a day.


Friends of Seven begin contributing to raise nearly $5 million to convert KSPS to digital. The transition will take place over several years in several phases.


KSPS begins broadcasting a digital High Definition signal along with the analog signal.


In late November, ice and wind combine to bring down the main transmission tower and antennas. The signal to cable and satellite viewers is fine but over-the-air viewers miss KSPS for almost a month as engineers work to rebuild. Most of the cost is covered by insurance and Friends of Seven contribute to cover the rest.


KSPS celebrates its 40th Anniversary and begins broadcasting two new digital channels: KSPS World and KSPS Create. These new channels are available free to over-the-air viewers and are carried on Comcast Cable in Spokane.


KSPS turns off its analog signal and broadcasts in digital only. KSPS staff help hundreds of viewers to make their digital converter boxes and antennas work well.


Friends of Seven changes its name to Friends of KSPS, positioning the organization for a bold new future!


Long-time Executive Director of Friends of KSPS Patty Starkey retires. Gary Stokes joins the organization as its new leader.


After more than 40 years at KSPS, General Manager Claude Kistler retires.


Working together, the boards of Friends of KSPS and Spokane Public Schools transition ownership of the station from SPS to Friends of KSPS. The transition is approved by the FCC and becomes official on September 1, 2013. Gary Stokes is named General Manager of the station.