ValleyPBS Celebrates 40 Years

Jul 22, 2017 | 2017 Articles, Sarah Peterson-Camacho, TV

by Sarah A. Peterson-Camacho

Downton Abbey, Sesame Street, Ken Burns—PBS is known for its wide variety of quality television programming, and ValleyPBS is no exception. And as the Valley’s local PBS affiliate celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, ValleyPBS CEO Phil Meyer sat down with Kings River Life to discuss the past, present, and future of Valley Public Television.


Sesame Street

KRL: How long have you been with ValleyPBS?

Phil Meyer: I started in January of 2015, so two and a half years now.

KRL: How did ValleyPBS get its start?

Phil Meyer: KMTF (the call letters stood for Kings, Madera, Tulare, and Fresno Counties) was founded by the Fresno County Public Schools district and signed on the air Sunday, April 10, 1977. Prior to the station’s sign-on, PBS distributed select programs to the area’s commercial television stations on a per-program basis; the only PBS station available in the market before Channel 18 signed on was KVIE in Sacramento, which was carried on some local cable providers.pbs

In 1987, Fresno County Public Schools sold the station to the community-owned Valley Public Television, Inc. In 1990, Channel 18 changed its call letters to KVPT. In March of 2007, KVPT purchased the low-power license for K18HD-D, which became the station’s new Bakersfield translator.

KRL: How is ValleyPBS celebrating its 40th anniversary?

Phil Meyer: We had a gala event in April near the actual date of the anniversary. The CEO of PBS national, Paula Kerger, was the keynote speaker. She said we were a model of what a local station could be.


40th Anniversary gala

We’ve also dug into our archives and have been sharing some historical photos in promos and on social media. There are also a lot of children wearing 40th Anniversary T-shirts with PBS Kids characters on them.

KRL: How has the station evolved over the last 40 years?

Phil Meyer: When the station first went on the air, it was one channel in standard definition for only part of the day. Now we have four channels airing 24 hours a day, one in high definition, and almost everything is available online.


Phil Meyer center

The quality of the production has improved—there’s HD, and the graphics are much more sophisticated. But you still have to have a good story to tell.

KRL: What future developments are you most excited about?

Phil Meyer: There is a new technology coming where the television signal will have much more capacity to send other content in addition to the television signal—for example, lesson plans for teachers and background information that adds to the TV shows. I’m also excited about some local productions we have in the works.

KRL: Which programs have had the greatest staying power over the course of four decades?

Phil Meyer: Many programs that were on when the station first started are still on the air: PBS NewsHour, Washington Week, NOVA, Nightly Business Report, Masterpiece, and Sesame Street. I would say the shows that have the most longevity are Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for children, and Masterpiece: Downton Abbey in prime time.

KRL: Which programs have had the most impact on the community?

Phil Meyer: There are many things that we do outside of television that people may not know about. We provide Parenting Workshops for free in partnership with many school districts in the Valley. The purpose is to help those parents be their child’s first, and best, teacher. We teach the classes in four languages (English, Spanish, Punjabi, and Hmong), and we give away thousands of free children’s books.


Ready to Learn (RTL) program

We also provide free resources for teachers based on our shows. Our free digital content is sortable by grade level and state standards, and we also provide professional development opportunities designed to improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

KRL: Where do you hope to see ValleyPBS in the next 40 years?

Phil Meyer: We are at this intersection of so much change: changes in television, demographic changes, changes in education, and how people learn. But I think there will always be a need for telling local stories: a place for us to pass along our shared history; a need for citizens to be well-informed; and a safe place for children to learn. Viewers may not get the shows in the same way, but I see us still existing for the viewers, rather than for advertisers.


40th Anniversary Gala

KRL: Any special upcoming events or fundraisers that you’d like the public to know about?

Phil Meyer: We do monthly events for families through an initiative called Family Circle. For $10 per month, all the members of a family get to attend an educational event, usually with a PBS Kids character, and a healthy snack.

We will be hosting screenings of the next Ken Burns film on The Vietnam War, leading up to its premiere in September.pbs

We raise 80% of our budget from the communities we serve, so the best way for a viewer to support us is still to become a Member.

KRL: What are your favorite programs on ValleyPBS?

Phil Meyer: Sesame Street, American Experience, Great Performances, American Masters, and anything by Ken Burns.logo

For more information on ValleyPBS and how you an help support what they do, please visit and their Facebook page. And check out KRL’s review of another popular PBS show Grantchester!

Sarah A. Peterson-Camachois a library assistant with Fresno County Library, with a Bachelor’s in English and a Bachelor’s in Journalism from California State University, Fresno. In her free time, she makes soap and jewelry that she sells at Fresno-area craft fairs. She has written for The Clovis Roundup and the Central California Paranormal Investigators (CCPI) Newsletter.

1 Comment

  1. I adore PBS. From craft shows to local interest to making me wish I had more grandchildren so I have an excuse to watch the kids programming. When we have local PBS events I volunteer however I can.


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