TV station responds to need in southwest Kansas
By JOHN GREEN
Special to The Telegram
SUBLETTE — Brian Adams fondly recalls while growing up in the Sublette area visiting his aunt at a television studio in the small community and watching production of a local news or talk show.
After returning to the area as an adult, he quickly noticed that local programming is missing.
"They used to produce a lot of local shows, where you could tune in every day at noon or in the morning and see what was going on in southwest Kansas," Adams said. "There hasn't been anything locally produced since the 1990s. It all comes out of Wichita."
The need for locally produced news, however, remains, Adams said.
"I thought someone ought to fix that problem," he said. "Then when the FCC opened a window (on obtaining new television licenses), I scratched my head and decided I'd be the one to fix it. So I applied and was granted the license."
That was three years ago, and Adams, founder of High Plains Broadcasting LLC, has been working since to get stations built and online.
Last week, Adams announced that the last of five digital transmitters is up and working, offering a variety of viewing options for western Kansans.
"Some viewers have discovered our signal on the air already," Adams said.
As a digital station, KDGL-TV23 programs can be viewed only with a digital TV, or with an Analog TV using a digital converter box. It is necessary to re-scan the TV or converter box to receive the new signal.
Available over the air for free, it carries six channels in the digital stream, reaching households without "rabbit ears" within a 10-mile radius, and those with external antennas up to 40 miles outside of Sublette, Liberal, Dodge City, Garden City and Ulysses.
With the stations online, Adams says he's now working to develop the local programming and hopes to have it airing by summer or fall.
Adams, whose primary business is building and leasing two-way radio towers, contracted out construction of the station towers and infrastructure, but still found himself occasionally atop the towers in a stiff western Kansas breeze "when the tower crew said they needed one more hand."
"I imagine people thought we were crazy," he said.
Sublette has the main studio and control facility, with the signal generated there relayed to repeater stations at the other locales. All of the current programming is pre-packaged network programming, but Adams is now working on building a studio for local production.
"I'm not sure if the first thing will be a morning or noon show," he said, "but we'll rerun things at different time slots during the day. I've got a guy in Liberal who's very interested in hosting the show, at whatever time. It will start out as more a variety talk show, with a light amount of local news, weather, and what's going on in the area."
Though based in Sublette, local programming won't focus only on Sublette, Adams said.
"We'll look at all those around — Meade and Hugoton and Lakin — all the little towns in between," he said. "Take a circle around Sublette out for 60 or 70 miles and I'm interested in anything going on in those communities."
He'll look at other program possibilities after he launches the first program, Adams said.
"We probably really need an ag program," he said. "That's the number one thing people ask for, is an ag program in the morning. That will probably be the next block of programming."
He'd also like to offer local sports coverage.
"In the long run," he said, "I really want to get into news."
As for future station expansion, Adams said that will depend on the FCC.
"We won't be able to ever add more transmission until they add more windows for filing," he said. "With the broadband spectrum crisis being talked about by broadband carriers, this may be one of the last stations to file for in this area. You never know. It was 10 years before this window that they allowed the previous filing, and 10 years ago it was all analog."