KERA-TV, virtual channel 13 (UHF digital channel 14), is a PBS member television station serving the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex that is licensed to Dallas. It is owned by North Texas Public Broadcasting Inc. It maintains offices located on Harry Hines Boulevard (east-northeast of I-35E) in downtown Dallas, and its transmitter is located south of Belt Line Road in Cedar Hill.
The station's signal is relayed on low-power translator station K44GS-D in Wichita Falls, which provides PBS programming to the Texas side of the Wichita Falls–Lawton market. KERA-TV also serves as the default PBS station for the Abilene, San Angelo and Tyler/Longview/Lufkin/Nacogdoches markets, as well as the Texas side of the Sherman/Ada market; none of these areas have PBS members of their own. It is also available on cable in Hillsboro, Waco and Texarkana. It was formerly carried on cable in Amarillo, until PBS station KACV-TV signed on in that market in 1988.
The station's call letters, which are said to represent a "new era in broadcasting", are shared with NPR member station KERA (90.1 FM); while there is cross-promotion between the two, each operates their own pledge drives.
The station began its life as a broadcasting arm of the Dallas Independent School District and was developed by local nonprofit Area Education Television Foundation, Inc. (which later evolved into North Texas Public Broadcasting), in cooperation with the district. The district paid the station to carry instructional telecourses that it would produce for broadcast on channel 13. Southern Methodist University originally applied for the channel 13 allocation in the late 1950s, but had trouble raising enough funds for its start up costs. DISD superintendent W. T. White announced in October 1958 that it was expected to sign on the air by the beginning of the 1959-60 school year, with programming to include Spanish language instructional programming for area elementary school students. The foundation had difficulty in meeting its fundraising goals to start broadcasting; by May 1959, the foundation was said to be $265,000 short of its $890,000 target to cover the proposed station's first two years of broadcasting.
The station's early operation benefited frequently through help from the commercial broadcasters in the Metroplex. Its original license application had received permission by the Federal Communications Commission to broadcast from Fair Park (on land donated to the station by the Dallas city government), but in 1960 it applied to be permitted to broadcast from studios on Harry Hines Boulevard that were set to be vacated by ABC affiliate WFAA-TV (channel 8), which was building new studio facilities at Young and Houston Streets to accommodate the operations of WFAA-AM-FM-TV as well as those of local newspaper The Dallas Morning News (ironically, WFAA-FM once held the KERA-FM calls now used by channel 13's radio sister); the building on Harry Hines, which the Dallas Independent School District purchased for $400,000, had been used by WFAA from its sign-on (as KBTV) in 1949.
The station signed on the air on September 14, 1960. It temporarily operated from studios at the Davis Building in downtown Dallas, behind the original WFAA building, in two portable buildings that were made to resemble a schoolhouse; it migrated its operations to the Harry Hines Boulevard facility in April 1961. It used the original WFAA-TV transmitting facility until it moved its transmitter to a tower at Cedar Hill that is shared with KTVT (channel 11); the station's transmitter only covered Dallas and surrounding suburbs, until a new transmitter was installed on August 31, 1970 that expanded KERA's signal coverage into Fort Worth. In 1974, it became the first television station in the United States to broadcast episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus, and is often credited with introducing the program to American audiences.
The station's parent North Texas Public Broadcasting signed on a secondary PBS member station in the market, KDTN (channel 2), on September 1, 1988. It used the station primarily to run educational and instructional programming that had previously filled much of the station's daytime schedule. It then shifted to offering primarily entertainment programming from PBS and other public television distributors. It sold KDTN to religious broadcaster Daystar – which bought it in order to get a better signal in the market, selling its original flagship KMPX (channel 29, now an Estrella TV owned-and-operated station) in turn – in 2004. However, through a special arrangement, it announced plans to continue its digital programming on KDTN's digital signal, in order to free up bandwidth on its main digital signal to allow the station to upgrade to high definition broadcasts. However, it has not needed additional subchannel bandwidth from KDTN as it operates only one additional subchannel service outside of its main signal.
Prior to the sign-on of the station's Wichita Falls translator, it had a unique arrangement to distribute its programming to the area, which was one of the few areas of Texas (and the United States, as a whole) without a PBS station of its own. A group headed by longtime State Representative Ray Farabee launched KIDZ-TV on UHF channel 24 in 1973; it maintained a full-power license, but operated at an effective radiated power of only 2.82 kilowatts. Before the expansion of cable television into the area, the goals were simple; among them, to make the popular children's program Sesame Street available to Wichita Falls (at the time, it was standard for PBS to offer programs to commercial stations in areas without their own PBS stations, but for whatever reasons none of the three stations in the Wichita Falls-Lawton market were interested). The local group had planned to apply for and build a translator. At the time, translators were only allowed to use signals picked up off the air, and its signal was marginal at best in that part of North Texas.
KIDZ-TV shared tower space with Wichita Falls CBS affiliate KAUZ-TV (channel 6). It rebroadcast KERA during all of the hours that KAUZ was on the air, roughly between 6:00 a.m. and midnight. This meant that some specials that aired on weekends were cut off early when the KAUZ engineers (who tended channel 24 as a public service) went home.
By the late 1970s, FCC rules regarding translators were changed to allow the microwave feed to be used to feed the translator class of station. KERA was therefore able to build its own translator in Wichita Falls, also on channel 24, as K24AD. The translator provided a better picture, and could operate during all of the hours that KERA was on the air. It moved to UHF channel 44 in 2005 and changed its callsign to K44GS. In September 2009, the FCC granted the station a construction permit to convert its signal to digital; the permit remained valid until September 2012 (the current occupant of channel 24, K24HH-D, is unrelated to K24AD or the earlier KIDZ-TV).
In October 2009, North Texas Public Broadcasting applied to the FCC for a translator license in Tyler. It requested a license for the station to operate on UHF channel 25. The application was dismissed in March 2011. Two additional ones are still pending for UHF channels 35 and 44, but no apparent actions have been taken on these to date.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|13.1||1080i||16:9||KERA||Main KERA-TV programming / PBS|
In 2003, the station signed on its digital signal on UHF channel 14. It shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, on June 12, 2009, to conclude the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. Its digital signal remained on its transition period UHF channel 14, using PSIP to display its virtual channel as 13 on digital television receivers.
PBS programs produced/distributed by KERA
The station contributes some to the nationwide PBS system, including documentaries such as JFK: Breaking the News and the national Emmy Award-nominated . It also produced the PBS documentary series The U.S. - Mexican War, which aired between 1995 and 2006.
On February 16, 1970, KERA became one of the earliest educational television stations to establish a news department, and began to air a 6pm newscast titled Newsroom, which was based on a similar program that aired on PBS's San Francisco member station KQED. In October 1976, the program was relaunched as a primetime newscast at 9:00 p.m., predating the move of then-independent station KTVT (channel 11, now a CBS owned-and-operated station)'s late evening newscast to the 9:00 p.m. timeslot in August 1990. It moved its evening newscast two hours earlier to 7pm on January 31, 1977, and renamed the program as 13 Report the following month. It shut down its news department on September 21, 1977.
- Newsroom (1970–1976)
- The 9 O'Clock Report (1976–January 1977)
- The 7 O'Clock Report (January–February 1977)
- 13 Report (February–September 1977)
- "If You Like Us, Join Us" (late 1970s–1984)
- "Turn to the Best, Turn to 13" (1984–1987)
- "TV Worth Watching" (1987–2000; also used by KDTN)
- "Members Make the Difference" (1990–2000; also used by KDTN)
- "Programs that affect you"
- "Television Unlimited"/"Intelligence Unlimited" (2000–present)
Notable former on-air staff
- Jerry Haynes - host of Mr. Peppermint (1970–1975; program was revamped version of former WFAA program Peppermint Place)
- Jim Lehrer - anchor of Newsroom (later anchor of the PBS Newshour)