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Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH

What do you do once you’ve seen studios and transmitters all over Omaha? You point the rental car to I-80 westbound and make the speedy drive (less than an hour) to Lincoln, which is not only the state capital but a great radio town, too.

Alpha Lincoln
Alpha Lincoln

Lobby
Lobby

There are two big commercial radio groups here, and they’re not far from each other on Lincoln’s west side. We made it to one before closing time on a Monday afternoon – Alpha Media’s six-station cluster that features one of the radio gems here in town, the full-service, news-heavy voice of KFOR (1240).

KFOR newsroom
KFOR newsroom

KFOR control room
KFOR control room

As we made the drive in to Lincoln, KFOR had Nebraska’s governor on the air here for his monthly “Ask the Governor” radio show, syndicated to stations all across this huge state. The governor had departed by the time we got to the station, but the newsroom was still hard at work with live, local programming, the kind that wins award on top of award. (And it’s not even the only solid radio newsroom in town; down the road, NRG’s KLIN 1400 also provides great news service here!)

KZKX 96.9
KZKX 96.9

KTGL 92.9
KTGL 92.9

KFOR’s studio sits at one corner of the building, part of an L-shaped arrangement that includes the newsroom off to one side and a control room adjoining the studio.

Down the hallway toward the back of the building, the FM music stations all line up with their own studios: classic rock KTGL (92.9 the Eagle), the market’s top-rated station; country KZKX (96.9), top-40 KFRX (106.3) and alt-rock KIBZ (104.1 the Blaze), as well as sports KLMS (1480). Toward the back of the building is a well-equipped rack room.

KIBZ 104.1
KIBZ 104.1

Rack room
Rack room

From here, we head off to check in to a hotel to catch the local TV newscasts. KOLN (Channel 10) is the established local behemoth, the CBS affiliate that’s been here since the 1950s and serves most of the state west of Omaha via satellite KGIN (Channel 11) out in Grand Island and KNPL-LD (Channel 11) in North Platte. Its competition is a newer ABC station, KLKN (Channel 8), which also operates Fox affiliate KFXL (Channel 51); NBC, which long came from Omaha’s WOWT, now comes from “NBC Nebraska,” KSNB (Channel 4) out in Superior, seen on a low-power translator in Lincoln.

Welcome to NET!
Welcome to NET!

History in the lobby
History in the lobby

KOLN started out on channel 12 but soon absorbed competitor KFOR-TV on channel 10; the channel 12 facility was donated to the University of Nebraska in the 1950s and became KUON-TV, the cornerstone of what’s now the statewide NET network.

After dinner, we enjoyed a late-night tour of NET’s operations, in a hulking brick monolith on the university’s satellite campus on 33rd Street. The NET lobby includes a nod to the early KUON-TV history, via a vintage TV camera near the door to the TV production side of the building. It also includes a nice look into the studios of the much newer NET radio service, which built up across much of the state starting in the 1980s. (In Lincoln, it’s KUCV 91.1, which began as the U of N’s radio station independent of the KUON-TV operation.)

NET Radio
NET Radio

TV control room
TV control room

Across the lobby from the small radio studio complex at one front corner of the building is the TV production area, where we see the new HD control room before heading into the spacious studio area at the middle of the building.

TV studio
TV studio

TV studio
TV studio

Behind the studio is an equally spacious garage housing two TV production trucks. Unusually for a public broadcaster, live sports is an important part of what NET produces, including high school football and some college sports (but not Nebraska football, which is big commercial TV business here, of course.)

Remote truck
Remote truck

Remote truck
Remote truck

Rounding the back of the building, there’s a spacious meeting area behind the studio, looking into the tech hallway that runs the south side of the first floor back toward the radio studios and lobby.

Meeting space
Meeting space

Tech hallway
Tech hallway
Vintage tech art
Vintage tech art

Dig the artwork that lines these walls and hallway – it’s all repurposed vintage technology, everything from hard drives to circuit boards to strands of old videotape cleverly turned into decorations that stretch up to the ceiling.

Our visit to the tech area begins in the rear corner in NET’s master control area, which not only handles the continuity for NET’s multiple TV streams but also constantly monitors the complex network that includes multiple TV and FM transmitters that reach into even the most remote corners of the state.

No matter how distant (looking almost 400 miles west to remote Alliance, Nebraska, out in the panhandle), all of these transmitter sites send telemetry back here so that NET’s technicians can keep tabs on transmitter and building status and sent out maintenance and repair crews as needed.

Master control
Master control

Master control
Master control

 

Tech core
Tech core

Rack room
Rack room

Technical facilities continue down the hallway, including an ingest area and spacious rack rooms featuring a mix of some older gear and newer, state-of-the-art HD servers and automation – which brings us back around to the radio corner and the lobby.

We’ll wrap up Nebraska in next week’s installment, then move west for some California radio, too!

Thanks to NET’s Matt Sperling and Alpha’s Rob Kelley for the tours!

2017 AM Translator Window Fybush MediaYes, we have half of 2017 left, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the 2018 Tower Site Calendar. Preorders will begin later this week. If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact Lisa.

And don’t miss a big batch of Lincoln IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!

Next week: A few stray bits of Omaha – and San Diego, too!