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Station Spotlight: Celebrating 40 Years of Ozarks Public Broadcasting

Almost 50 years ago, on November 7, 1967, President Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act into law. The act states, “public television and radio stations and public telecommunications services constitute valuable local community resources for utilizing electronic media to address national concerns and solve local problems through community programs and outreach programs”.

For 40 years, Ozarks Public Broadcasting (OPB) has served residents of southwest Missouri providing educational programming and outreach programs to the community. OPB consists of flagship stations KSMU-FM Radio and Ozarks Public Television (OTP) made up of KOZK-TV located in Springfield, as well an additional TV station KOZJ-TV in Joplin. KSMU reaches over 40,000 weekly listeners in Southwest Missouri, while OTP broadcasts 168 hours of programming per week to 549,540 households in Southwest Missouri and the tri-state area.

KSMU-FM, a Missouri State University licensee and founding member of the University Station Alliance, went on the air in 1974. The following year Ozarks Public Television, a community licensed station, began broadcasting from the campus of Drury University. In 2001, Ozarks Public Broadcasting was formed when Missouri State University acquired the TV station.

When KSMU expanded its studios, it bought the house next door
When KSMU expanded its studios, it bought the house next door.
The original KSMU studio in 1974 was a residential home
The original KSMU studio in 1974 was a residential home.

“KSMU-FM was located in one—and later a second—residential house, both of which live on through hilarious tales of critters and crawl spaces,” said Tammy Wiley, General Manager, KSMU Radio Network and Ozarks Public Television. “Television staff remembers studios/offices in a former Quonset hut—which included leaky roofs and noisy air conditioners that had to be turned off during live broadcasts!”

Original OPT Building
Ozarks Public Television went on the air in 1975 as a community licensed station, broadcasting from a very humble building on the campus of Drury University.

OPB prides itself on award journalism that expands on the day's top stories and provides the community with in-depth reports. KSMU and Ozarks Public Television both produce versions of Sense of Community. The series is designed to go beyond the normal 30 second news sound bites and really take a look at issues that impact the Ozarks. The program is centered on five areas: Education, Health, Business and Economic Development, Creative Arts, and Science and the Environment.

“Our shared mission of education, public affairs, and community engagement form a common core that informs the service we provide. The stations' goals to preserve and document the unique history of the Ozarks region, to celebrate diversity, and to foster community engagement are a nice blend of honoring the history of our region while also looking to the future to reach new audiences,” said Wiley.

Ozarks Public Broadcasting is committed to celebrating the diversity of the Ozarks in its many forms, including gender, race, culture, religion, and language. Through news features, profiles of Ozarks residents, and interviews, OPB is able to start a community dialogue about the people who call the Ozarks home. Two successful projects centered on celebrating diversity are Around the World, Here at Home and Small World Big Picture. Around the World, Here at Home host Jennifer Davidson interviews Ozarks residents who were born in a different country. Guests share memories of their homeland, traditions, as well as how they came to call the Ozarks home. Ozarks Public Television's Small World Big Picture focuses on three areas: expanding understanding, celebrating diversity, and building inclusive communities. Guests share what diversity means to them and how it is shaping the Ozarks.

To expand on the diversity initiative, in partnership with the Missouri State University Religious Studies Department, KSMU Radio has established a Religious Studies/Reporting Internship. This intern reports on topics related to the religious diversity of the Ozarks. Ozarks Public Television is currently developing a series of locally-produced instructional language programs. The first series, focused on Conversational Chinese, debuts in this fall.

OPB is dedicated to producing quality, local programming that highlights the region and its people. KSMU produces Studio Live, a monthly hour-long program that features local musicians and mixes conversation with live performances. Rountree News Update is part of a Partners in Education relationship between KSMU and Rountree Elementary. Once a month fifth grade students share news of what's happening at their school. Making a Difference Where You Live, in cooperation with Springfield-based Community Foundation of the Ozarks, explores how volunteerism and philanthropic efforts address community needs.

Strong Hall
OPB's current facilities are in Strong Hall on the Missouri State University campus.

Ozarks Public Television and Missouri State University produce OzarksWatch Video Magazine, a weekly series that documents, presents, and preserves the unique heritage of the Ozarks. The program aims to increase viewers' knowledge and understanding of the richness and complexity of the Ozarks region. The program also attempts to promote a sense of place for residents and serve as an educational resource by continually documenting and archiving cultural elements and providing easy access to this information. In the OPT produced documentary One Year After the Joplin Tornado: Turning Despair to Hope, members of the Joplin community reflect on the previous year and what has changed for them personally as well as for the community as a whole, and look to what still lies ahead in the future. In Tent Theatre - 50 Fabulous Seasons!, the OPT documentary pays tribute to Missouri State University's celebrated summer theatre program through personal interviews, archival photos and clippings, and historic video segments.

Tammy Wiley
Ozarks Public Broadcasting's General Manager, Tammy Wiley, started at the station as a student news reporter.

To honor all that Ozarks Public Broadcasting has accomplished over the past 40 years, OPB is celebrating for the next year with events every month. The celebration kicked off in May with several events including an ice cream social and KSMU youth bluegrass band contest. Upcoming events include OPT Kids Night at First Friday Artwalk on August 1 and the Greater Ozarks Blues Festival on September 5 and 6. The celebration wraps up in May of 2015 with a surprise guest from NPR.

“The future for OPB is bright… for the very same reasons that we've reached this 40 year milestone. The stations are a community treasure and the people in the Ozarks expect a service of high quality. And they are committed to growing it,” said Wiley.

For a complete list of activities celebrating OPB's anniversary, please visit http://ksmu.org/anniversary.

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