KTWU, virtual and VHF digital channel 11, is a PBS member television station located in Topeka, Kansas, United States. The station is owned by Washburn University. KTWU maintains studio facilities located on the western edge of the Washburn University campus at 19th Street and Jewell Avenue (with a College Avenue mailing address) in central Topeka, and its transmitter is located on Wanamaker Road (south of the Kansas River) on the city's southwest side. It also operates a low-power translator serving portions of southeastern Kansas, K30AL-D (channel 30) in Iola, which maintains transmitter facilities located near Moran.
On cable, KTWU is available in the Topeka area on Cox Communications cable channel 8 in standard definition and digital channel 2008 in high definition, and on AT&T U-verse channel 11 in standard definition and channel 1011 in high definition. The station is also available in the Kansas City area and throughout eastern Kansas on many cable and satellite providers.
In 1962, the Federal Communications Commission assigned the VHF channel 11 allocation in the Topeka market, reserving it for non-commercial broadcasting use. Thad Sandstrom, who at the time was the general manager and vice president of communications at Stauffer Communications (then-owners of WIBW-TV (channel 13), the city's first television station which launched nine years earlier in November 1953), helped convince the FCC to allocate channel 11 strictly for educational broadcasters. It is partly for this reason that WIBW-TV remained the only commercial television station in the Topeka market until KTSB (channel 27, now KSNT) signed on in December 1967, as at the time, there was limited viability for commercial television stations on the UHF band as many electronics manufacturers did not begin incorporating UHF tuners onto television sets with UHF tuners until 1964, three years after the FCC passed the All-Channel Receiver Act. Washburn University subsequently filed an application to operate a broadcast license to operate a television station on channel 11.
The station first signed on the air on October 21, 1965, as a member of National Educational Television (NET). It was the first public television station in Kansas, and was the only non-commercial television station the state for five years until the Sunflower Educational Television Corporation signed on KPTS in Hutchinson in January 1970. KTWU originally operated from studio facilities located in Topeka's Signal Hill neighborhood, near Interstate 70 and Wanamaker Road, initially employing only five staffers; Stauffer Communications owned the Signal Hill building, leasing it to Washburn to serve as the studios for the university's new station, while also leasing broadcast tower space to Washburn for the channel 11 transmitter.
The station began to struggle after an F5 tornado hit Topeka on June 8, 1966, damaging or destroying nearly every building on the Washburn University campus. The university chose to reallocate money that was originally earmarked for channel 11's operational budget to help in Washburn's rebuilding effort, leaving KTWU to rely mainly on viewer donations, and private funding from local foundations and businesses, operating on a lean annual budget of $50,000. Older equipment leased to the station for production and master control services frequently broke down, and broadcasts were occasionally interrupted due to the aging transmission line on its broadcast tower; the Signal Hill studio was also periodically invaded by snakes, mice and insects. Local programming on the station during its early years included high school and college telecourses, and coverage of various sports.
On October 5, 1970, KTWU became a charter member station of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which was formed through the merger of National Educational Television with its Newark, New Jersey member station WNDT (now WNET) that was assisted by the Ford Foundation and Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
For most of its first four decades on the air, KTWU signed-off at 12:00 a.m. seven nights a week. On September 5, 1998, the station converted to a 24-hour programming schedule, filling hours that KTWU did not fill with station-scheduled locally produced, syndicated or PBS-provided programming with shows from PBS's default satellite schedule.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|11.1||720p||16:9||KTWU-HD||Main KTWU programming / PBS|
|11.2||480i||4:3||KTWU-DT2||MHz Worldview (8 p.m.-6 p.m.)|
PBS Kids (6 p.m.-8 p.m.)
|11.3||KTWU-DT3||KTWU Enhance (Create/PBS Encore)|
From 2003 (when KTWU signed on its digital signal on UHF channel 23) to 2005, the station carried PBS' high definition service, PBS HD Channel, on its main channel. On October 1, 2005, KTWU replaced PBS-HD on virtual channel 11.1 with the main schedule on the analog signal.
On May 4, 2009, KTWU became a member affiliate of MHz Worldview, carrying the network on digital subchannel 11.2 (with the exception of a two-hour window from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., in which the subchannel carries PBS Kids programming). On that same date, KTWU launched a third subchannel branded as "KTWU Enhance", which primarily carries lifestyle and how-to programming from Create as well as a selection of programs from PBS Encore.
KTWU shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 11, on February 17, 2009, the original target date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 23 to VHF channel 11.
In addition to programming provided by PBS and through independent distributors such as American Public Television, KTWU produces several local programs including (as of 2015) Sunflower Journeys (a program focusing on the history of notable places and people throughout Kansas, which is syndicated regionally to fellow PBS members KCPT in Kansas City, KPTS in Wichita and the Smoky Hills Public Television network in western Kansas), Theater of The Mind (an anthology series of televised adaptations of radio plays) and I’ve Got Issues (a monthly community affairs program).
The station has won several Emmy Awards throughout its history, including wins for its production of the Washburn University Holiday Vespers concert, a radio play adaptation of Dracula (as part of its Theater of the Mind series) and Sunflower Journeys.