New multicast channel gives Blue Ridge PBS room for afternoon kids’ shows

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Blue Ridge PBS in Roanoke, Va., launched a multicast channel Monday that returns children’s programming to its afternoon schedule.

President James Baum said the station focused on afternoon educational programming until several years ago, when viewers “started constantly asking for how-to programs” during that time. Back then, the station had only its main channel and one multicast for the World Channel.

Wild Kratts

PBS Kids programs such as Wild Kratts return to the afternoon schedule on Blue Ridge PBS’s new locally programmed multicast channel. (Image: PBS)

The new multicast channel, called SW Virginia Public Television, will be locally programmed with do-it-yourself shows in the mornings and animated educational programs from 3 to 7 p.m. Evenings feature public affairs and lifestyle content as well as entertainment and documentaries.

Meanwhile, the afternoon how-to shows continue to perform well on the main channel, Baum said.

Engineers used existing spectrum to create the new standard-definition wide-screen channel. “It costs us nothing to do this,” Baum said.

Blue Ridge PBS announces the new channel after struggling for the past few years. Early in 2012, then-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell zeroed out state support for the station, which accounted for nearly a third of its budget. That funding had paid for two regional transmitters that carried programming, including educational content, to 54 school divisions throughout Southwest Virginia through an agreement with the Virginia Department of Education.

The station could no longer afford PBS dues to pay for the large area it was servicing and shut down the two transmitters. “We still own them; they’re in service two hours a day so we can maintain our license,” Baum said. “But we just can’t afford to send PBS programming to that much territory. We had to pull back.”

So the past two years “have been very, very difficult,” he added. “A big challenge for us. But we’re doing everything we can to improve our lie, as they say in golf.”