KET's executive director to retire

After just more than six years at the helm of Kentucky Educational Television, Mac Wall announced plans Thursday to retire at the end of the year.

Wall, 63, said a desire to spend more time with his family prompted the decision.

"My wife in early September went on our trip to Spain, and I say 'our trip' because I didn't go," said Wall, who was at a meeting of the Organization of State Broadcasting Executives at the time. "She came back and said that will never happen again."

The couple are expecting their first grandchild next spring and plan to spend their time in Florida and Oregon with family, he said.

Wall said the highlight of his time at KET was the 2005 launch of the network's EncycloMedia education service for schools and its expansion.

"It's free, it's robust, it's deep and it's invaluable. It's just been a rock star for us," he said of the program, which is a partnership with the state Department of Education. "When you get into these really rural poor school districts, and they have this and it's free, it's powerful."

Wall's time at KET also has seen its expansion of high-definition programming. But it also has been a difficult time financially.

The network, which receives $12.4 million from the state's General Fund, has had to cut its budget by almost $2.9 million since December 2007.

Ten employees have been laid off. Overall, the staff is down by 45 positions through retirements, terminations and attrition since December 2007. KET now employs 173 people.

Despite the trying times, Wall said, KET is "much more stable than many of our colleagues around the country."

He said the network has been successful growing its audience, much of which has to do with its dedication to locally produced content.

He said KET is among the largest producers of local content of any public network nationwide.

"That's just important," he said. "When you look at the business perspective of the output we get from our staff ... it's staggering how effective we are.

"That local relevancy is the mother's milk of the future."

The process of replacing Wall will begin soon. A committee of the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television will be appointed to begin a search.

"The authority is working to have a process in place very soon that will provide for some overlap of leadership and for a smooth transition," KET spokesman Tim Bischoff said.