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WPBA
Atlanta, Georgia
United States
ChannelsDigital: 21 (UHF)
Virtual: 30
BrandingATL PBA
Programming
Affiliations
Ownership
OwnerAtlanta Public Schools
(Board of Education of the City of Atlanta)
Radio: WABE
Cable: APS Cable Channel 22
History
First air date
February 17, 1958 (63 years ago) (1958-02-17)
Former call signs
WETV (1958–1984)
Former channel number(s)
Analog:
30 (UHF, 1958–2009)
  • Primary:
  • NET (1958–1970)
Call sign meaning
"Public Broadcasting Atlanta"[1]
Technical information
Licensing authority
FCC
Facility ID4190
ERP105 kW
HAAT265.2 m (870 ft)
Transmitter coordinates33°45′32.4″N 84°20′7″W / 33.759000°N 84.33528°W / 33.759000; -84.33528 (WPBA TV 21 (30.1) transmitter)Coordinates: 33°45′32.4″N 84°20′7″W / 33.759000°N 84.33528°W / 33.759000; -84.33528 (WPBA TV 21 (30.1) transmitter)
Links
Public license information
Profile
LMS
Websitewww.pba.org

WPBA, virtual channel 30 (UHF digital channel 21), is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station licensed to Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Owned by Atlanta Public Schools, it is a sister outlet to National Public Radio (NPR) member station WABE (90.1 FM) and local educational access cable service APS Cable Channel 22. The three outlets share studios on Bismark Road in the Morningside/Lenox Park neighborhood of Atlanta; WPBA's transmitter is located on New Street Northeast (south of DeKalb Avenue) in the city's Edgewood neighborhood.

WPBA was Georgia's first public television station, signing on in 1958, and is the only one that is not part of Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB).

History

The Board of Education of the City of Atlanta filed on February 16, 1953, for a construction permit to build a new noncommercial educational television station on Atlanta's reserved channel 30.[2] The Federal Communications Commission granted the application on March 21, 1956; the school board announced that the station would operate from the former Rock Springs School.[3] After delays in tower construction set back the start,[4] the station first signed on the air as WETV, for "Educational Television", on February 17, 1958; test broadcasts had started at the end of 1957.[5]

Channel 30, the first educational television station to sign on in Georgia, focused initially on programs for use in the city's public schools. The initial offering consisted of five high school courses and two at the elementary school level.[6] In addition, the station aired programs from National Educational Television and produced local specialty programming, including Board of Aldermen and Board of Education meetings and programs for senior citizens and Spanish speakers.[7] In 1973, the station began broadcasting on Saturdays for the first time ever.[7]

Parallel to WETV's early years, the University of Georgia built WGTV, channel 8 in Athens, in 1960, and the Georgia Educational Television Network was constructed in the 1960s, providing service to the rest of the state. However, in the early 1980s, when WGTV was amalgamated with Georgia Educational Television to form the present Georgia Public Broadcasting, Governor George Busbee called for the state to negotiate to purchase WETV.[8] The late 1970s and early 1980s also saw other changes: the formation of a Public Broadcasting Association to advise on the operations of WETV and WABE;[9] upset workers who threatened a wildcat strike over work schedule issues;[10] and Fulton County's decision to stop funding WABE and WETV in 1982, which almost led the Atlanta school board to turn both over to GPB.[11] Ultimately, the factor that dissuaded the Board of Education from handing over its broadcasting outlets was the fact that it was a minority school system and had no interest in turning over the services to a predominantly White group.[12]

In 1984, seeking to improve its image, channel 30 changed its call letters to WPBA ("Public Broadcasting Atlanta").[1] The station periodically explored potential new directions, such as a 1991 study that suggested focusing on local productions and deemphasizing network shows; the same study also suggested a move to a multicultural format for WABE, which drew the ire of public broadcasting supporters.[13] The advisory board campaigned in 1993 to take full control of the stations;[14] this led to its restructuring as the Atlanta Educational Telecommunications Collaborative in 1994.[15] After the handover, WPBA more than doubled its annual budget thanks to increased corporate and viewer donations; however, much of this came from airing PBS programming, prompting more concern by some donors of overlap with GPB. The statewide network made another overture to take over WPBA and WABE, which the Atlanta Board of Education rebuffed, with the racial composition of channel 30's management compared to the state agency again being cited.[16]

Former WPBA logo, used from 2008 until July 23, 2018; the logo is based on the design used by NPR. The "PBA" is still used for Public Broadcasting Atlanta itself.
Former WPBA logo, used from 2008 until July 23, 2018; the logo is based on the design used by NPR. The "PBA" is still used for Public Broadcasting Atlanta itself.

On September 6, 1999, WPBA assumed time-lease rights to Atlanta Public Schools' APS Cable channel (which is carried on Comcast channel 22 in metropolitan Atlanta), which began carrying programming from the upstart PBS Kids Channel each night from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., with instructional programming acquired by the school district continuing to air during the daytime hours.[17]

In 2005, WPBA heavily reduced its PBS program offerings after Atlanta Public Schools and station management decided to make channel 30 a participant in the service's Program Differentiation Plan; this came amid frequent complaints of duplication between WPBA and GPB and a desire to cut costs at the station.[18] As a result, the station began to carry only 25 percent of the programming broadcast by PBS's national feed, giving GPB primary status for most new PBS programs. To make up for the reduced lineup of PBS shows, WPBA also expanded its reliance on syndicated programs from American Public Television and other distributors as well as locally produced news and public affairs programs.[18]

On July 23, 2018, WPBA discontinued the "PBA 30" branding, used since the late 1990s, and changed its moniker to "ATL PBA", removing references to its over-the-air virtual channel. The following day (July 24), Atlanta Public Schools reached an agreement with PBS to convert WPBA into a full-service member outlet in order to better compete with GPB for viewers, public and private monetary contributions, and corporate programming underwriters. The move, which will allow WPBA to carry any content supplied by the service and to provide PBS Passport to its members, will result in a roughly $500,000 increase in programming expenditures; however, the station does not plan to simulcast programming with the GPB state network and will inform GPB of its scheduling decisions, which may also result in some shows added to the lineup airing on as little as a 24-hour delay. The station plans to keep its Monday and Friday lineups—which primarily rely on British programming—unchanged, and expand local program production.[18][19]

Programming

As a PBS member station, much of WPBA's programming consists of educational and entertainment programming distributed by PBS to its member stations (which include Antiques Roadshow, America's Test Kitchen, Arthur, Lidia's Kitchen, Masterpiece, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, This Old House and Sesame Street) as well as content from American Public Television and various other distributors. While there is cross-promotion between WPBA and WABE radio, the latter conducts pledge drives independent of those conducted by channel 30. The station's programming schedule also consists of cultural and educational programs, documentaries, general interest and children's programming.

WPBA's weekday lineup is mostly filled by children's programs from PBS and American Public Television (such as Curious George, Wild Kratts, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Odd Squad and Ready Jet Go!) from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., with a two-hour block of cooking shows and British drama series in the early afternoon. Programs provided by PBS are primarily shown on most nights in prime time except for Fridays, which (as is the case with its Monday evening lineup) instead features a mix of British drama content from PBS and American Public Television. On Saturdays, WPBA carries a broad mix of art instruction, cooking and how-to programs during the morning and afternoon hours, and movies and encore presentations of PBS prime time shows in the evening. Sundays feature additional children's programming in the morning (from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m.), with the remainder of that day's schedule outside of prime time consisting of travel series and encores of PBS documentaries.

From August 2000 until WPBA and other television stations permanently shut down their analog broadcast signals, the station's broadcast transmitter was typically turned off during the overnight hours (generally from 1:00 to 5:00 a.m.). In order to fill time until the station resumed broadcasts each morning, Comcast, Charter Communications, AT&T U-verse and other Atlanta-area cable providers carried the PBS Satellite Service over WPBA's assigned channel slots during the designated sign-off-to-sign-on period. (Until its broadcast stations adopted such a schedule in February 2009, WPBA was one of the few remaining broadcast television outlets in the United States that had not converted to a 24-hour-a-day schedule.) Beforehand, many other cable providers around the Atlanta market carried other lower-priority cable networks that limited headend frequency space precluded from assigning them to a separate full-time channel over WPBA's channel slots as filler during overnight–early morning time periods during the broadcast signal's off-air period.

Technical information

Subchannels

The station's digital channel is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[20]
30.1 1080i 16:9 ATLPBS Main WPBA programming / PBS
30.2 NHK NHK World

In addition to broadcast transmissions over its digital signal, WPBA datacasts UpdateTV, an over-the-air programming service which updates the firmware on some brands of ATSC tuners, via the PBS National Datacast network, thus being able to receive the station will benefit owners of those devices. The station has also datacast TV Guide On Screen since the beginning of October 2009, after CBS affiliate WGCL-TV (channel 46) discontinued transmitting the service amid technical issues that the service caused for some viewers that owned certain digital television set-top boxes.

WPBA-DT2

For the first eighteen years of digital television operations, WPBA was one of the few PBS stations not to broadcast any digital subchannels, possibly because some of the bitrate is occupied by datacasting (WGTV operates two subchannels on its frequency, serving the area). On March 28, 2018, the station began carrying NHK World-Japan on digital subchannel 30.2. NHK World is the global English-language service from Japan's national public broadcaster, offering hourly newscasts originating from Tokyo with a mix of cultural, travel and documentary programming.[21]

Analog-to-digital conversion

WPBA began transmitting a digital television signal on UHF channel 21 in 2000. WPBA shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 30, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 21, using PSIP to display WPBA's virtual channel as 30 on digital television receivers.[22] The termination of WPBA's analog over-the-air signal allowed for low-power station WTBS-LP (channel 26) to proceed with its buildout of its digital transmitter, which was allocated UHF 30 to serve as its physical digital channel assignment.

On the date of the transition, Comcast ceased transmitting WPBA to its analog service within Metro Atlanta, contradicting a moratorium on such actions that ran until well after the over-the-air cutoff, in order to prevent viewers from losing all sources of any television station at once. WPBA continued to be available to Atlanta-area viewers on digital channel 16 in standard definition and 816 in high definition. (To comply with FCC rules requesting that a cable system to carry a PBS station in their market for analog viewers post-transition, WGTV continued to be carried on Comcast's analog service by way of its presumptive status as the Atlanta market's "flagship" PBS station.) However, all analog subscribers are entitled under FCC regulations to receive simplified digital television adapters (DTAs) provided by their cable system at no extra charge (and extra boxes for a maximum of $2 per month, per box), in order to recover channels to which they lost access but are still carried on the provider's basic tier (below channel 100). (These devices require a separate remote control which may not work with universal remotes or personal video recorders' IR blasters for recording WPBA programs.)

Transmission tower

Main article: List of Atlanta broadcast stations by location § Edgewood/Kirkwood

WPBA and WABE share two adjacent towers in the east side of the city between Edgewood and Kirkwood, with the single transmitter antenna used by local radio stations WSB-FM (98.5), WSTR (94.1 FM) and WVEE (103.3 FM). (The transmitters used by the three radio stations are diplexed together, so that they all feed to the antenna instead of into one another.) WABE formerly maintained transmitter facilities on Stone Mountain, but was forced to relocate as a result of WGTV needing the space for its digital equipment, in addition to maintaining its analog transmitter, along with the existing use of the tower by KEC80 to transmit NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts.

Like WGTV, WPBA also has a weak signal well below the maximum power allowed by the FCC, limiting its useful broadcast range. As a result, its over-the-air signal is marginal at best outside of the I-285 Perimeter (i.e., Atlanta itself and the inner suburbs).

References

  1. ^ a b Carman, John (May 30, 1984). "Channel 30 may shed more than old image". Atlanta Constitution. p. 5-C. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  2. ^ FCC History Cards for WPBA
  3. ^ "Atlanta School TV Due On Channel 30 in Year". The Atlanta Constitution. March 22, 1956. p. 1. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  4. ^ "School TV on Dec. 1". The Atlanta Constitution. October 31, 1957. p. 15. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  5. ^ "Educational TV Setup Explained As Atlanta's Station Is Dedicated". The Atlanta Constitution. December 30, 1957. p. 3. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  6. ^ Hancock, Herman (February 8, 1958). "School TV Planned for Feb. 17 Here". The Atlanta Constitution. p. 3. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Happy Birthday, Public Broadcasting". The Atlanta Constitution. September 30, 1973. pp. 1F, 2F. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  8. ^ Hesser, Fran (November 20, 1980). "Busbee Asks Statewide Public TV". Atlanta Constitution. p. 2-C. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  9. ^ Williams, Donna (December 27, 1979). "PBA Reaches For Community Leaders". The Atlanta Constitution. p. 10D. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  10. ^ Williams, Donna (February 5, 1981). "Upset TV Crew Airs Complaints". The Atlanta Constitution. p. 6D. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  11. ^ Salyer, Sharon J. (April 12, 1982). "Public Broadcasting Stations Get Breathing Room". The Atlanta Constitution. p. 12-A. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  12. ^ Hansen, Jane (October 7, 1982). "School board backs down on stations offer". The Atlanta Constitution. p. Intown Extra 1, 4. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  13. ^ Burden, Bernadette (October 28, 1991). "2nd WPBA-WABE study set". The Atlanta Constitution. p. F4. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  14. ^ White, Betsy (October 23, 1993). "Change urged for WABE, WPBA". The Atlanta Constitution. p. C1. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  15. ^ Henry, Derrick (August 11, 1994). "Restructuring at WABE-FM, WPBA means nine employees to lose jobs". The Atlanta Constitution. p. E11. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  16. ^ Rich, Motoko (June 24, 1998). "Atlanta's Small Public TV Station Struggles to Remain Independent". The Wall Street Journal. p. S1. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  17. ^ Karen Everhart Bedford (August 30, 1999). "Multi-purpose PBS Kids takes flight next week". Current. Current, LLC. Archived from the original on December 16, 1999. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  18. ^ a b c Rodney Ho (July 26, 2018). "EXCLUSIVE: Public Broadcasting Atlanta's Channel 30 becoming full-service PBS station". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Cox Enterprises. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  19. ^ Dru Sefton (July 27, 2018). "Atlanta viewers to get second full PBS member station". Current. Current, LLC. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  20. ^ "RabbitEars TV Query for WPBA". RabbitEars. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  21. ^ "NHK WORLD-JAPAN is New Name for International TV Service of NHK, Effective April 2" (Press release). NHK. March 29, 2018. Retrieved April 7, 2018 – via GlobeNewswire News Room.
  22. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and Second Rounds" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 29, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2012.