History of KET

The Digital Transition: The Malcolm (Mac) Wall Years

From classrooms to television and computer screens, viewers saw the fruits of initiatives launched under KET Executive Director Malcolm (Mac) Wall, who retired following a 40-year career in public television on January 1, 2010.

Wall took the helm of KET in 2003, expanding its commitment to local programming, education, and health in Kentucky—while at the same time making the transition to digital and HD transmission.

Spotlighting health and education

Wall is especially proud of KET EncycloMedia and Be Well Kentucky, key initiatives he launched and championed.

KET EncycloMedia is an Internet-based service that delivers multimedia materials on request to help teachers develop interactive lessons. It also offers rich resources to their technology-savvy students for their own projects. The service is available free to all K-12 public schools in Kentucky.

The Be Well Kentucky initiative aims to inspire a cultural shift in health attitudes and practices among Kentuckians. “Our children and grandchildren deserve the opportunity for a bright and successful future,” said Wall. “Unless we actively commit to improving our health and theirs, that future will be bleak.”

The initiative has marshalled an array of media and outreach activities to spotlight health issues and wellness solutions. Learn more about Be Well Kentucky.

Staying local

In 2008, KET launched the Kentucky Channel, featuring programs by, for, and about Kentuckians. “In the vast digital media landscape, the greatest ‘risk’ is that local content will be lost. The Kentucky Channel is a stand-alone broadcast platform that champions all things local,” said Wall.

Under Wall’s leadership, KET produced the three-part documentary Where the River Bends: A History of Northern Kentucky and launched three new weekly Kentucky series: One to One with Bill Goodman, Connections with Renee Shaw, and Louisville Life.

One to One with Bill Goodman features in-depth interviews with a variety of interesting people drawn from a wide range of fields. Connections with Renee Shaw focuses on the people working to make a difference in a culturally blended society. And the Emmy Award-winning Louisville Life shows viewers what is distinctive about Louisville’s neighborhoods, introduces talked-about locals, and helps viewers plan the next go-see trip or night out on the town.

Wall championed KET's production of Thoroughbred, the first high-definition, full-length documentary focusing on the Thoroughbred horse industry. The program premiered in March, 2010.

Going digital

Wall led the statewide network as the television industry and KET underwent a breathtaking change—from analog to digital production and transmission. On April 16, 2009, KET ceased analog transmission statewide, after preparing viewers for the DTV transition through an expansive public awareness campaign.

KET began broadcasting 24/7 in high definition on Oct. 1, 2009, commissioning a cutting-edge HD production facility at its Network Center in Lexington. With an end-to-end, digital file-based workflow, KET houses one of the nation’s most innovative public television production facilities. Made possible by funding from state appropriations, KET is using this pioneering infrastructure to expand service to the Commonwealth.

Online service expanded as well. In 2009, KET launched KET ED On Demand, an online video service providing educators with access to most of KET’s instructional programming and resources, more than 200 series.

Building on strengths

Wall made it a priority to understand what Kentuckians expect from KET. He traveled the state with his Listening Project to gain insight into ways KET can address community needs and state issues, met thousands of citizens, and frequently spoke to chambers of commerce and Rotary and Kiwanis clubs across the Commonwealth. In all, he estimates that he logged more than 60,000 miles.

“Public institutions like KET have an increased obligation to stay connected to the many publics they serve,” he explained. “One direct way KET is doing this is by listening. Actively listening to communities across the Commonwealth assures that we understand the issues and expectations about which Kentuckians feel most strongly. KET can serve best when we know what matters most.”