Pressroom

KGFE, Channel 2, viewers now have digital service

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Category: Corporate

FARGO, N.D., February 21, 2006 — Nearly two years after an ice storm knocked out Prairie Public Television’s broadcast facility near Petersburg, N.D., the television signal is back. It also has the historic distinction of being the final tower erected in Prairie Public Television’s statewide conversion to digital broadcasts.

Digital has more capacity than traditional television signals, and Prairie Public will use the capacity to broadcast three different streams of programming. High definition broadcasts, with the superior picture quality that makes digital television so attractive, will use most of the digital capacity in evenings during primetime when available. Prairie Public began the transition to digital shortly after Congress mandated that all commercial and public television stations convert to the new technology.

Prairie Public will broadcast in the traditional standard format for those who don’t have the digital equipment to receive the new signals.

To replace the Petersburg tower that had been damaged beyond repair, the non-profit television network speeded up construction of the final digital tower near Devils Lake. “The tower outage was a significant financial and logistical challenge for us,” said Jack Anderson, director of Prairie Public Television’s engineering department. “But now our viewers have the newest, highest level of television technology available to them. I think they’ll find it was worth the wait.”

To serve their viewers while the new tower was being constructed, Prairie Public Television got a special permit from the FCC to broadcast a low level signal that served the Grand Forks area. The network also purchased equipment that allowed area cable providers to send the signal. In spite of those efforts, some people still have lived without the Prairie Public Television signal since the ice storm.

“We’ve had calls from people whose kids miss ‘Sesame Street,’” said Prairie Public’s Marie Lucero. “The impact we have in the state was even more apparent than usual when we disappeared. It’s heartening to know that people love and depend on public television so much.”

Prairie Public Television now has two digital towers to offer service to the old Channel 2 area: one in Crookston, Minn., (seen on Channel 16) and one in Devils Lake, N.D., (seen on Channel 25). Viewers across the northeastern part of North Dakota may access Prairie Public Television’s digital signal from the Crookston tower or the new Devils Lake tower via two methods: a digital television with a tuner or—much more affordably—a “set-top” digital converter, available for purchase at most electronics stores.

The question many people have, according to Prairie Public Television’s CEO, John Harris, is if it will be necessary to purchase a new digital television set. “Only if you want the benefits of digital,” he said. “Stations will continue to broadcast the traditional analog signal until 85% of households in the United States have digital sets, which may take many years. The programming our viewers are accustomed to seeing will continue to be where they expect it, when they expect it.”

To help answer questions about digital broadcasting, Prairie Public has devoted pages in its Web site to help answer questions about digital broadcasting at www.prairiepublic.org/corporate.

Prairie Public Broadcasting, headquartered in Fargo, is a non-profit organization and community licensee that provides public television services throughout North Dakota, northwestern Minnesota, southern Manitoba, and parts of Montana and South Dakota, and public radio service to North Dakota. In addition to broadcasting services, Prairie Public Broadcasting provides a wide range of educational and technological services to communities and individuals across its coverage area.
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