The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced six grants totaling more than $2.5 million Wednesday as part of its Public Television Digital Transition Grant program.
“These investments will help public television stations serving substantially rural communities make the transition to digital broadcasts,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Patrice Kunesh, who announced the grants in Bethel, Alaska. The FCC required all broadcasters to convert full-power transmitters to digital signals by June 2009, but stations have until 2015 to convert repeaters and low-power TV signals.
The largest grant, $750,000, goes to the West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority. The network will convert its television production studio in Charleston from analog to HD digital.
Bethel Broadcasting in Alaska received $718,656 to help station KYUK buy digital production equipment to convert a low-power transmitter for public channels that are part of the Alaska Rural Communications Service, a statewide network of low-powered TV stations broadcasting to 235 communities in remote areas. "Digital transmission is important to remote towns like Bethel, which can only be reached by air," the announcement notes. "Bethel has more than 60 percent Yup'ik Eskimo residents and serves as an administrative and transportation hub for nearly 60 surrounding Native Alaskan villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region."
Other grants went to:
- The Ana G. Mendez University System in Puerto Rico, which got $566,505 to purchase digital equipment for educational, social and cultural programming to remote locations;
- The Kentucky Authority for Educational Television, which will spend $357,700 to replace 20 analog microwave radios with digital radios for stations WKSO (Somerset), WKMR (Morehead), WKHA (Hazard) and WKPI (Pikesville);
- Eastern New Mexico University, which got $112,822 for two translators serving the Mescalero Apache Tribe Reservation. The translators will allow tribal members to pick up pubcaster KENW-TV in their homes with indoor antennas. The upgrades also will provide the reservation with an Emergency Alert System; and
- Idaho Public Television, which will use $59,500 to upgrade digital translators for over-the-air programming for communities in the Camas Prairie region of central Idaho.