Lakeshore Public Media announced today it has completed a planned upgrade to its Lakeshore PBS transmission system that prepares the station for the next generation of broadcasting.
“Through the generous support of the NISOURCE Charitable Foundation, we are proud to announce that the final step to our system upgrade is complete,” said James A. Muhammad, President and CEO of Lakeshore Public Media. “We now have an up-to-date, digital transmission system from our studios to our transmitter site with back-up power and multiple levels of redundancy.”
Over the last year, Lakeshore PBS has committed over $500,000 in new equipment and repairs, purchasing a new solid-state HD transmitter and replacing damaged lines and other susceptible pieces. The new system should eliminate single points of failure, operate on much less power and will be ATSC 3.0 ready, so it will be equipped for the next generation of broadcasting.
“After midnight on Thursday morning, we successfully crossed over to our new STL,” said Matt Franklin, Vice President of TV Operations for Lakeshore Public Media. “There were no issues in the switch, and the repair only took us off the air for 10 to 15 minutes.” A studio transmitter link (or STL) sends a television station’s audio and video from the broadcast studio or master control center to its broadcast transmitter through the use of terrestrial microwave links between both sites.
In July 2018, a violent storm damaged the Lakeshore PBS TV transmitter, knocking the station off the air. TV transmitters were in high demand as stations all across the country had orders in place for new equipment due to the FCC spectrum auction and station repacks, causing delays of all new orders up to six months. A temporary low-power transmitter was delivered to the Cedar Lake site in August, but additional damage was later discovered at the top of the 1000’ foot tower.
The public television station continued to work to purchase a new full power broadcast transmitter, but the needed repairs were put on hold when bitter cold weather hit the region in November, and the station was only seen by those with Comcast cable. Eventually a certified tower crew from Oklahoma was booked and able to complete the needed repairs by March, returning the station to its full power service.
“It takes a large investment in capital to operate a TV station, and that outage showed how challenging it can be,” Franklin continued. “While we are still pulling some older technology out of the broadcast stream, we now have a full power transmitter and our new STL system in place. These are the foundational pieces for us to provide a high quality broadcast signal to serve our communities for years to come.”
Lakeshore PBS signed on the air November 1987 as WYIN Channel 56, a commercially 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.
Over 30 years later, the station remains the sole televised source for local information centered on Northwest Indiana. The station, which operates out of its Merrillville studios, broadcasts two channels: its primary Lakeshore PBS channel and a sub-channel that airs NHK World on 56.2, offering an English-language global network presented from an Asian perspective.
“Last year we made significant updates to our television transmitter, continued our local focus with programming like Friends & Neighbors and Eye on the Arts, and launched a new website,” Muhammad said. “Even during this pandemic, our team has continued to work hard behind the scenes to serve our viewers and members. We have even more plans for 2020 and beyond.”