The creation of Southern Oregon Public Television was a joint effort of many community partners.
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.
In 2019, SOPTV made the decision to more closely align with the PBS national brand, and renamed the station Southern Oregon PBS. The new name was accompanied by a new brand, both of which launched Jan. 1, 2020.