FCC Grants 'Digital Only' Status to Virginia Public Broadcaster

WNVT, a PBS station based in Goldvein, Va, has received permission from the FCC to shut off its analog signal and broadcast as a digital-only station.

The station, which is owned by the Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corp. petitioned the commission earlier this year, citing financial difficulties and a declining analog audience. WNVT broadcast Monday through Friday from 4:00 pm. to midnight and most of its evening programming targets the African American population in the Washington D.C. area. During the school year, it broadcasts instructional programming for classroom use during the day.

WNVT told the commission that the audience for its analog signal over Channel 53 numbered around 3,000 and that its budget had been reduced by 23 percent in the last year along, making it difficult for the station to justify the costs of continuing to broadcast in analog. According to Station Manager Frederick Thomas, the cost of upgrading the station's tower to handle both analog and digital antennas would have cost approximately $500,000 and that "the bulk of the audience truly is cable." Thomas adds that the station has received no public complaints since the analog signal was shut off.

In its petition to the commission, WNVT said it could save an estimated $900,000 in construction and operational costs over the next four years by operating as a "digital only" facility.