MERRILLVILLE—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.
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.
With the completion of the FCC spectrum auction and station repack, TV transmitters are in high demand as stations all across the country have orders in for new transmitters. The Lakeshore PBS full-power transmitter is scheduled to take 6-8 weeks to build, with an anticipated delivery date of September 26.
In the meantime, the station received a loaner transmitter which was delivered to the Cedar Lake site on August 3. The installation started that night and halted late in the evening as a communication error kept the new transmitter from working with the current system. The next day, the lead engineer worked with the Quincy, IL manufacturer and resolved the error.
New issues then presented themselves that kept the transmitter from operating. After more inspection, additional damage was found in the system, believed to have been caused by vandalism. The engineering team discovered what appeared to be multiple faults in the transmission lines, blocking the system from operating.
Station officials are working with local authorities to investigate the vandalism, which is believed to have occurred on the overnight of August 3rd. The station is also working to get more security at the transmitter site.
The engineering team from Chicago, which had been contracted by Lakeshore only ten days before the storm, continues to work on locating the faults. Special testing equipment has been ordered as it is needed to discover where the fault lies in the system, which runs along its 950-foot tower.
“We hope to get the low-power, temporary transmitter up as soon as possible, getting the station back on the air,” said Matt Franklin, Vice President of TV Operations for Lakeshore PBS. “We can then see what other options there are available to help us reach the satellite and cable systems the low-power signal doesn’t reach.”
The station maintains service on Comcast systems across Chicagoland as they have a fiber connection in place as a back-up. Comcast subscribers have seen no loss of programming on Lakeshore PBS, as the station continues to operate.
“Through all of this, we heard from many viewers and members during our outage, letting us know that they missed 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 want to be up and operating more than anyone. “
Franklin stated his frustration with this “perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances” that continues to plague the station. “It wasn’t just one thing, it was many – the age of the transmitter, the 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.”
Lakeshore PBS signed on the air November 1987 as WYIN Channel 56, a community-licensed public television station. The non-profit organization continued to upgrade the quality of station production and broadcast equipment over the years, with revenue generated through member contributions and support from local businesses and organizations, as well as state and federal grants.
About Lakeshore Public Media
Lakeshore Public Media provides quality local and original programming that educates, enlightens, and informs. Lakeshore Public Media chooses the best of NPR and PBS and other public media providers, broadcasting to millions of homes throughout Northwest Indiana, Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. Lakeshore PBS broadcasts its main channel over the air on 56, on Comcast on 17 or 21 (HD Channel 239), on RCN Cable on 44, on Dish Network (HD Channel 6320), AT&T U-verse (HD Channel 1056) and DirecTV on 56. Lakeshore PBS broadcasts NHK WORLD TV over the air on 56.2 and on Chicagoland Comcast on 377. Lakeshore Public Radio can be heard on 89.1fm.