KUHT, virtual channel and VHF digital channel 8, is a PBS member television station located in Houston, Texas, United States. The first public television station in the United States, it is owned by and licensed to the University of Houston System. Along with NPR radio station KUHF, it forms Houston Public Media. KUHT maintains studio and office facilities are located in the Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting on the campus of the University of Houston, and its transmitter is located in unincorporated northeastern Fort Bend County (near Missouri City).
The station was established by Dr. John C. Schwarzwalder, a professor in the Radio-Television Department at the University of Houston, and first signed on the air on May 25, 1953 as the first public television station in the United States, and one of the earliest member stations of National Educational Television, which eventually merged into PBS. KUHT originally operated from the Ezekiel W. Cullen Building on the University of Houston campus. Its dedication ceremonies were broadcast on June 8 of that year. The station's initial cost was an investment of US$350,000, and had an annual operating budget of about US$110,000. Originally licensed to both the University of Houston (UH) and the Houston Independent School District, UH became its sole licensee in 1959.
The station also offered the university's first televised college credit classes. Running 13 to 15 hours weekly, these telecasts accounted for 38 percent of the program schedule. Most courses aired at night so that students who worked during the day could watch them. By the mid-1960s, with about one-third of the station's programming devoted to educational programming, more than 100,000 semester hours had been taught on KUHT.
In 1964, KUHT moved into new studio facilities located on Cullen Boulevard, which were previously occupied in order by The DuMont Television Network affiliate [KNUZ-TV] (channel 39), now operated by KIAH. When KNUZ-TV went dark, ABC affiliate KTRK-TV (channel 13) used the facility from KTRK's inception until it moved to Bissonnet Blvd. KUHT purchased a new transmitter that not only enabled the station to broadcast beyond Harris County into its surrounding areas, but also to begin broadcasting in color. Five years later, in 1969, the Association for Community Television was formed to fund KUHT.
In 1970, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the successor network to National Educational Television, began service, combining televised educational lectures with popular programs such as Sesame Street, NOVA and Masterpiece Theatre that remain PBS staples to this day. The station is also noted in Houston for many technical firsts at the local level. In 1981, KUHT became Houston's first television station to provide closed captioning, and 10 years later, in 1991, it became the first station in Houston to offer Descriptive Video Service audio, and other services for the visually impaired as well as bilingual viewers via a secondary audio program feed.
In 1982, with assistance from KTRK and independent station KRIV (channel 26), KUHT began operating a new transmitter located near Missouri City – making it one of several television and radio stations that now broadcast from that location. KUHT was known on-air as "Houston Public Television" for many years before adopting the "HoustonPBS" moniker in the early 21st century. From 1993 into the early 2000s, KUHT's logo also did not include the number 8, but used a logo similar to the ones used by Detroit's WTVS and Seattle's KCTS-TV. These stations are members of LARK International, a public-television production company, which owns the sunburst-on-square logo; however, they are not related to each other. KUHT's current logo is based on the sunburst portion of that logo.
On August 21, 2000, KUHT moved to its current studios in the LeRoy and Lucile Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting on the campus of the University of Houston, where KUHT shares broadcast facilities with public radio station KUHF – both owned by and licensed to the University of Houston System – where the complex is located. The previous facility is now in use by the university's Texas Learning and Computation Center.
On March 3, 2014, KUHT, along with Houston Public Radio and Classical 91.7, were all rebranded into Houston Public Media. The network dropped the "HoustonPBS" name to assume the new name.
KUHT has almost 600 reels of film in its archives (some more than 50 years old), along with 5,000 videocasettes – some dating back more than 30 years. However, the archive material is in various states of deterioration, with some film already suffering from vinegar syndrome. In September 2010, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission granted the University of Houston $25,000 for film preservation; however, the funding is only enough to transfer 25 films to digital format, with films related to Texas taking top priority.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|8.1||1080i||16:9||KUHT-HD||Main KUHT programming / PBS|
|8.4||None||N/A||SIS||Houston Taping for the Blind (radio reading service; audio only)|
|8.5||None||N/A||Classic||KUHF-HD2 simulcast (Classical music; audio only)|
|8.6||None||N/A||88.7 FM||KUHF simulcast (NPR news; audio only)|
KUHT's digital signal originally began broadcasting on VHF channel 9 on May 12, 2001. The station discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over VHF channel 8, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition VHF channel 9 to former VHF analog channel 8 for post-transition operations.
In 2009, KUHT filed with the FCC for construction permits to build low-powered digital transmitters in Beaumont (K24KQ, channel 24) and Victoria (K29JI-D, channel 29), in order to provide over-the-air PBS service to both cities. Those two Consturction Permits have expired and KUHT has no plans to attempt the build-outs at this time (2015).
KUHT has produced the following original national productions for PBS: