Lakeshore PBS remains off air one month after storm, suspected vandalism adds to delay

Lakeshore PBS transmitter repairs

Engineers continue work on repairing the faults throughout Lakeshore PBS’ 950-foot tower.

UPDATE 8/17/18: A violent storm damaged its TV transmitter on Monday, July 16 forcing Lakeshore

PBS off the air, and a month later it is still not broadcasting. The station maintains service on Comcast/Xfinity systems across Chicagoland as the cable provider has a back-up fiber connection in place.

After a week of testing and repeated attempts to repair the existing system following the storm, it was determined that the 15-year-old transmitter was damaged beyond repair. Lakeshore PBS then moved forward with purchasing a new transmitter.

TV transmitters are in high demand as stations all across the country have orders in for new equipment due to the FCC spectrum auction and station repack. Lakeshore PBS’ full-power transmitter is scheduled to take 6-8 weeks to build, with an anticipated delivery date of Sept. 26.

In the meantime, a temporary low-power transmitter was delivered to the Cedar Lake site on Aug. 3. Installation started that evening but was halted as a communication error kept the new transmitter from working with the current system. The next day, the lead engineer worked with the Quincy, Ill. manufacturer to resolve the error.  After further inspection, the engineering team from Chicago – contracted by Lakeshore Public Media only 10 days before the storm – discovered what appeared to be multiple faults in the transmission lines preventing the temporary transmitter from operating properly. Station officials are working with local authorities to investigate the damage, which is believed to have been caused by vandalism that occurred on the overnight of Aug. 3.

Lakeshore PBS transmitter vandalised

Lakeshore Public Media officials are working with local authorities to investigate damage to their transmitter, which is believed to have been caused by vandalism.

Vice President of TV Operations for Lakeshore PBS Matt Franklin stated his frustration with this “perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances.”

“It wasn’t just one thing, it was many,” he said, ”the age of the transmitter, a new engineering team, the spectrum auction and the vandalism – all happening at once to keep us off the air so much longer than we ever could have expected.”

As engineers continue to work on repairing the faults throughout the 950-foot tower, special testing equipment has been ordered to aid in the process. Once the temporary transmitter is broadcasting, the station will determine what options are available to extend the low-power signal to as many satellite and cable systems as possible. They are also increasing security measures at the site.

“We are very appreciative of the many viewers and members who’ve reached out to us during our outage, letting us know that they miss their programming and their PBS station,” said James Muhammad, president and CEO of Lakeshore Public Media. “Their biggest concern is that we are going dark permanently.  Believe us, we will be back as soon as possible. We want to be up and operating more than anyone.”

Lakeshore PBS signed on the air November 1987 as WYIN Channel 56, a community-licensed public television station. The nonprofit organization continued to upgrade the quality of station production and broadcast equipment over the years, and added a sub-channel that airs NHK World on 56.2, offering an English-language global network presented from an Asian perspective. The station, which operates out of its studios in Merrillville, Ind., seeks to be the recognized media resource for citizens of all ages to experience lifelong learning, celebrate human diversity, and engage in civic concerns – all to enrich the lives in communities we serve. For more information, visit LakeshorePBS.org.

[WATCH: 7/26/18 update from our President/CEO James Muhammad]

[LISTEN: 7/20/18 Lakeshore Public Radio host Sharon Jackson discusses the outage with our President/CEO James Muhammad and VP of TV Operations Matt Franklin]