WKAR, DPTV launch 24/7 children's programming channel
A year after their promise to develop new programming, WKAR and Detroit Public Television will effectively launch a new channel, WKAR PBS KIDS, to broadcast children's programming 24/7. Under the new initiative WKAR Family, WKAR PBS KIDS will start broadcasting Jan. 16.
Detroit Public Television, or DPTV, announced a partnership with WKAR last January, avoiding the potential sale of WKAR. It was their goal to create new forms of programming for both stations, and creating a new channel with 24/7 programming was planned from the beginning.
WKAR, DPTV and MSU have been working closely to implement the programming. Both WKAR and DPTV will launch the 24-hour channel and live streaming through pbskids.org and the PBS KIDS Video App Jan. 16.
"I feel like we've just stumbled onto this superpower that we have in the public media station — that we really can have the power to reach the community and we can support parents and we can support teachers, and I think as we move forward with this channel, it's just a milestone," DPTV Education Specialist Tara Hardy said. "It makes me excited about the work — we can really make a change and an impact and help families become stronger and more resilient."
The new station stems from WKAR Family, a new initiative developed to create free educational programming for Michigan families. Old and new projects alike will be housed under WKAR Family.
"We're unveiling along with the channel, WKAR Family, which is essentially a blanket initiative that covers new services, like the PBS 24/7 channel," Bill Richards, WKAR communications manager and digital lead, said. "For years, we've been engaged in the community through Ready to Learn and other projects. Those ongoing projects will continue under WKAR Family."
As part of WKAR Family, more than 20 short videos targeted toward parents and caregivers will be produced in partnership with MSU. These videos will run between children's programming and will focus on social and emotional development, science, literacy, math, engineering and technology.
"These are video shorts that will be airing on the new channel," Richards said. "We're producing them here through WKAR and they're based on — their practices and tips are research-based, based off of things that MSU researchers have learned here through their studies."
Amy Parks, associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education, will be one of the researchers featured in the videos. With a focus on early-learning math, she has the chance to speak directly to caregivers about what they can do to promote kids' math learning through the videos.
"It's been really fun. The first thing I would say is that it's been really productive for me to think about sharing my research with communities other than scholars," Parks said. "My hope is that the videos identify these, sort of, key aspects of early math learning that parents can engage their kids in."
These family spots will also be available to DPTV and other stations around the state and nation for airing.
"A lot of the work we've been doing with WKAR is sharing content," Hardy said. "We have mutual goals of getting messages out to parents to help them be the best parents they can be. So we've done some collaboration with that and there will be some more in the future as we gear up to launch the new 24/7 children's channel."
A major reason WKAR Family was created was to allow families to bond by watching television programming together. The messages in the video shorts will provide a way for parents to engage kids further with the content they learned in the programming, Hardy said.
"There really (are) so few opportunities these days for families to watch this kind of programming—children's programming — together as a family," Richards said. "Being able to have this real family viewing opportunity available in the evenings and very early mornings is just such a great opportunity."
WKAR Family will officially be launched Jan. 14 at the WKAR PBS Kids Day open house, which is open to the public. WKAR PBS 24/7 channel will also be previewed during that time. The event will take place at WKAR TV studios on MSU’s campus from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.