In 1965, Oregon Educational Broadcasting (OEB), forerunner of Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), persuaded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reassign channel 8 from Brookings to Medford. OEB intended to make channel 8 the third station in its television network, which at that time included flagship KOAC-TV in Corvallis and KOAP-TV (now KOPB-TV) in Portland. Southern Oregon was the only region of the state without public television. However, OEB backed out after a protracted battle with several commercial applicants. The license eventually went to Liberty Television, owners of KEZI-TV in Eugene.
The owners of the two commercial stations in the area, Bill Smullin of KTVM-TV (now KOBI) and Ray Johnson of KMED-TV (now KTVL), helped a new nonprofit corporation, Southern Oregon Educational Company (SOEC), buy the channel 8 construction permit from Liberty. They also pledged payments of $50,000 once the station signed on. Getting the funds to sign on proved more difficult than expected. With the FCC permit about to run out, KSYS went on the air on January 17, 1977 with the strongest signal of any station in the region, at 191,000 watts. This was still not enough to cover Klamath Falls, and SOEC (later renamed Southern Oregon Public Television, Inc.) immediately applied for another station to cover that region. However, it took 12 more years before KFTS went on the air in January 1989.
The two stations are the only public television stations in the state not affiliated with OPB, but occasionally air some of OPB's programs.
They are also the "Presenting Station" for several national programs including Tommy Emmanuel and Jesse Cook pledge specials. They also present the series Sierra Center Stage and Music Gone Public.