TEXARKANA, Ark. — The new owner of local TV station KLFI, Wes Crenshaw of Dallas, hopes to find success here by combining the highest in technology acumen with old fashioned family values.
"KLFI will be a Texarkana-based TV station in programming," said Crenshaw, president and founder of Blueline Technology, which owns the station. "We will have several locally produced programs, including news, community affairs, sports, even kids programming. The space outside under the awning of the old downtown bus station where we are moving the station will be perfect for one show we will produce locally."
KLFI was started in 1988 by Mike Huckabee — later Governor of Arkansas — when he was pastor of Beech Street Baptist church. Since then it has broadcast both local as well as Christian-oriented programming.
Crenshaw has many changes in mind, many of which will be made possible by technology he will put into play. He intends to maintain a local orientation and a Christian and family-friendly lean.
"The station has been the sort families did not have to worry about at any time of day it was being watched," he said. "Now that the church no longer wishes to be in the television business, I could not bear to see KLFI possibly fall into the hands of someone who would want to do anything other than family friendly programming."
Modern digital technology will let KLFI present 30 channels at the same time, Crenshaw said.
"Viewers will access the programming on an app we will make available," he said. "Phone users, TV owners, they all will be able to tune in. All the programming will be free to view for our local audience."
Crenshaw started his journey into the broadcasting industry by the electronics training he received in the Air Force. After that, he became an engineer in the civilian world, joining Texas Instruments, managing clean rooms and processing semiconductors. But due to an uncle whom he described as having a sort of "P.T. Barnum flair," he developed an interest in sales.
"I realized you could make even more money selling the equipment than building it," he said. "The more you work, the more you earn."
He sold television broadcasting equipment for several companies.
"The kind of people I represented could build you a fully equipped television station at any time," Crenshaw said.
In 1978, he started his own company producing broadcasting and consumer electronics gear, initially called Hurricane Marketing. It was later changed to Active Marketing.
"Stereos, tape decks, closed circuit TV equipment, I'm not exaggerating too much when I say our earliest cameras, we had to hand crank," he said. "Also, it was all in black and white at first. The cameras operated on vacuum tubes."
He closed the company last year, after successfully executing a steady stream of contracts, including work for Congress, Armed Forces Radio and Television and the U.S. Navy, he said.
"Where we really made our reputation was was in designing and building television station automation systems, some of which we built for the psychological operations systems that were used in the Iraq War," he said. "Those systems are still in use, somewhere in the world."
In 2001-02, Crenshaw's company was approached by representatives from KLFI to build an automated system for them.
"That started a long-term business relationship with them," he said. "When the church decided to get out of the television business, they offered it to me. I've always wanted to own and operate my own television station. Some of my family members are even more excited about this move."
When Crenshaw says "move," he means it. Though he has called Dallas home for many years, he is making the move to Texarkana.
"To show how serious I am about committing to this station and this town I bought a home on the Arkansas-side, which I am refurbishing," he said. "I'm influenced in my ideas for programming by my dad, who was a Southern Baptist lay preacher, who planted churches for other pastors to run long term."
With 30 channels to fill, KLFI will offer a wide range of programming, with a news network, sports network and several locally produced programs.
"We expect to be fully operational in our new facilities, studios, local production, the whole bit, but the middle of 2021, he said. "We will feature lots of streaming."