Agriculture Department grants $14 million to public broadcasters for DTV conversion

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will award $14 million in grants to 18 public television stations serving rural communities, according to the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS).

The grants represent the second round of funding from a Rural Utilities Service grant program to assist public television stations in the transition to digital broadcasting.

Public television stations rely on viewer support and business contributions for the bulk of operating budgets. In many rural areas, the cost of the digital transition exceeds the funding available from viewer support and contributions from the business sector.

To assist stations with the cost of the conversion, Congress directed that $14 million of the distance learning/telemedicine funds in the USDA Rural Development 2004 appropriations bill be used to support the transition effort.

APTS launched the Rural Broadband Coalition in 2001 to address the digital conversion needs of stations serving rural America. The goal of the coalition is to work with Congress to find funding to help rural stations finance the conversion.

The grants will be used for new digital transmitters, antennas, translators and other DTV equipment.

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