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Making a Difference: Jim Host

Who Else But KET?

Jim Host is a Kentuckian through and through.

He first came to love the state while growing up in Ashland, where it seemed like everyone cheered for the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Naturally he wanted to attend school there, and getting one of the university’s first baseball scholarships made that dream come true.

After playing in the minor leagues he founded Host Communications, a pioneering collegiate sports marketing and production services company. Through his career in broadcasting, he traveled to nearly every corner of the state, where he grew to value each citizen.

Host embraced KET early — so early, in fact, that it was still just a dream of one of his University of Kentucky professors.

That professor was O. Leonard Press, the broadcast teacher and visionary who founded Kentucky Educational Television.

“I took my first courses under Len Press and I got to know him,” remembered Host. Press, he said, was one of the UK professors who had an early impact on his life.

“I remember him talking to us one day in class, and him saying, ‘Think what you could do for this state if you could do education with television.’ That’s when I first learned of his vision.”

Host’s intersection with Press and KET didn’t end in his university days. Later, Host was tapped by Gov. Louie Nunn to become the youngest member of his cabinet at the age of 29. In that position, he saw KET funded and Press’ dream realized.

Today, Host praises the breadth of KET’s services, especially educational programs and resources distributed online to teachers and students in every classroom statewide.

“KET provides the only way that it really works,” Host noted. “It provides young people a way to be educated when they don’t have the opportunity to do it otherwise. And now we have a lot of homeschooling, and people can use KET for that purpose.”

Host acknowledges that while technology and indeed the world have changed since the 1960s, KET’s value has only increased.

“I value KET for doing things that no one else can,” he asserted. “First in education, second, making sure that people in this state understand what its government is doing, and third, to provide the arts in a way that no one else is able to do, especially music. Music is such a vital part of our culture.”

Additionally, Host looks to KET to help children in every corner of the state have access to arts instruction efficiently online, which he feels will aid them in reaching their goals.

Host also points to lifelong learning as key to KET’s mission.

“I feel so strongly about what KET provides,” he said. “It provides a quality of life and education for young people and television shows that they’re not going to get any other way.”

KET provides PBS and other nationally sourced programming alongside locally produced programs; and instructional and educational resources, materials, and technology training for schools. Host says these offerings position KET to serve a diverse population.

“They can be offered on KET because it has its niche in programming,” he said. “It certainly has its niche in education. It has its niche in children’s programming that does not exist anywhere else on television.”