Penn State Public Broadcasting becomes 100th public DTV station

WPSX-TV, the Penn State Public Broadcasting station in State College, Penn., has become the 100th public television station to convert to digital transmission. The station reaches 500,000 households in central Pennsylvania and southern New York. More than 250 public stations remain in analog and most of those will probably not make the FCC’s mandated May 1 deadline for DTV operations.

The station uses a Dielectric antenna at 792 ERP, its full authorized power level.

In fact it was the FCC deadline that prompted the station to go digital, according to chief engineer Carl Fisher. He estimates that less than one percent of the station's viewing area has receivers capable of receiving WPSX-DT's signal. The station went on-the-air in DTV on March 3rd with an Axcera solid-state digital transmitter and a Dielectric antenna at 792 ERP, its full authorized power level. The station broadcasts 12 hours a day in standard definition, using Harmonic encoders to convert its NTSC signal.

"We were fortunate to get a grant from the [Public Television Facilities Program] and additional funding from Penn State University to make this happen," Fisher said, who explained that WPSX is located on the college campus. The station has not performed tests to see if the digital signal replicates its analog coverage area.

John Lawson, president and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), said that public television's progress in meeting the conversion is primarily the result of "extraordinary support from state governments and local capital campaigns with some important support in the past few years from federal sources."

With this milestone, the APTS said that more than 27 percent of America's public television stations are currently transmitting a digital signal. However, less than two months remain for the other 257 to meet the federal government's May 2003 digital conversion deadline. A spokesperson at PBS headquarters in Alexandria, Va., said most of those analog stations had petitioned the FCC for extensions.

The station went on-the-air in DTV on March 3rd with an Axcera solid-state digital transmitter.

Ted Krichels, general manager of Penn State Public Broadcasting, said that with digital they now have the capacity to deliver multiple channels over- the-air as well as providing web links, online discussions and educational materials via the TV for teachers.

Since 1964, Penn State Public Broadcasting has grown from an educational television station with limited programming and broadcast range to serving one of the largest public broadcasting coverage areas in the nation.

In addition to PTFP funding, the federal government has helped PBS stations pay for its digital transition through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Representatives from public television stations across the country recently lobbied in Washington, D.C. to make the case for continued federal support for the digital transition (Read Public stations gather in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress for DTV funds) .

Lawson said continued federal funding for the digital conversion is essential because:

  • It helps public television stations that will not have met the May deadline to complete the digital conversion;
  • It helps those digital television stations that currently operate on low-power gear up to full power;
  • It helps public radio stations complete their digital conversion.

The APTS was established to support the continued growth and development of noncommercial television service for the American public. As broadcasters make the transition to digital, APTS is working to ensure the federal government continues its commitment to universal public television services.

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