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KIXE Celebrates 50 Years

09/25/2014 12:00AM ● By Jon Lewis

Public Relations

October 2014
By Jon Lewis
Photos: Betsy Erickson

KIXE-TV, the North State's public television station, is turning 50 this month and while it’s marking the big milestone with a yearlong celebration, it’s also looking back at its past to prepare for the future.

“This station was founded by volunteers to provide educational TV and that’s the heart of it: volunteers and education,” says Michelle Slade, KIXE’s development director. “The goal was to take education beyond the classroom and to the people outside that age group, and the community really rallied.”

That rally began Oct. 5, 1964, when Channel 9 flickered to life with a snowy black-and-white signal that delivered classroom programs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Some 40 schools signed up and chipped in a combined $17,000 for the resource.

Today, KIXE broadcasts around the clock on three channels, sending out to parts of 10 counties a lively mix of programs that educate, enlighten and entertain: everything from Big Bird to Beethoven, Downton Abbey to NewsHour and Sherlock to Sesame Street.

“Thankful” is the term General Manager Michael Lampella repeatedly returns to when reflecting on KIXE’s half-century of being on the air, and that gratitude extends to the visionaries in the mid-1950s who laid the groundwork for a noncommercial educational TV station a full 10 years before Channel 9 became a reality.

“To see the support continue throughout the North State—people giving a few dollars, and sometimes more than a few, and volunteering—it comes down to one focal point: people really love their local PBS station,” Lampella says.

The station will spend a year returning the favor, starting on Sunday, Oct. 4, with a 7 p.m. screening of a new, locally produced program on KIXE’s history. Throughout the following week, the public is invited to schedule a tour of the station’s North Market Street studio and offices.

Lampella hopes people will admire the new flooring, the cheery interior color scheme, new energy-efficient LED lights throughout and the new exterior paint—all the results of partnerships with local businesses that want the station to remain a vital part of the community.

To capitalize on its 50th anniversary, the station is providing individuals, organizations and service clubs the opportunity to be associated with KIXE by sponsoring individual rooms. The sponsor’s name will be featured on a plaque along with KIXE’s anniversary logo. Can’t afford a room? Consider investing anywhere from $40 to $300 in an etched tile that will become a part of the permanent Community Wall.

People also can invest in what KIXE puts on the air, Slade says. “We want to produce more local programs; we want to make an impact on our community, and we’re looking for individuals and groups interested in doing that.”

Channel 9 continues to invest in the community through its programming, and the station is using momentum surrounding the anniversary to reinvigorate revitalize its education missio —especially
for its youngest viewers.

“Channel 9 is a great learning tool to have in the home,” Slade says. “You can learn how to be a friend, how to count, how to read … the TV is an easy tool to turn on.” Providing a safe harbor and over-the-air access to educational programs is especially vital, given that so much of KIXE’s coverage area is so remote and lightly populated that many daycare providers and parents just don’t have access to or can’t afford conventional preschool resources.

“Education is what we really are. There’s a big underserved population and we fill that need,”  Slade says. “With an education, you have more opportunity to be a viable part of the community and more options for work,” Lampella notes.

KIXE is keeping learning fun, thanks in part to a revamped Kids Club that will treat member families to annual parties in Redding (Redding Soccer Park) and Chico (FunLand/Cal Skate) and book giveaways in partnership with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

With support from First 5 Shasta, the station will begin hosting monthly storytelling sessions that will feature firefighters, weather forecasters and other guest speakers. Every child who attends will leave with a copy of the book that was shared during the session.

Grants from Head Start, First 5, the Redding Rancheria Community Fund and the Scripps Foundation have allowed KIXE to expand its literacy outreach programs, including the donation of 50 books to each library in Shasta and Trinity counties.

“In the next 50 years, those we’re educating will be our leaders,” notes Slade. “We’re really excited about what the future holds. We’re all reenergized. There’s a life here that feels like it was at the beginning.”