The Digital Convergence Alliance, a single master-control facility in Florida ramping up to serve public television stations in four states with customized programming streams, has received $7 million in support that CPB initially announced last April. Over the past year, the DCA has grown from six stations to 11 as it worked to secure vendor contracts for a network operating center in Jacksonville. Alliance founding members now include Florida stations WJCT, Jacksonville; WFSU, Tallahassee; WEDU, Tampa; WUCF, Orlando; WBCC, Cocoa Beach; WFSG, Panama City; and WPBT, Miami. Also, from three other states, WPBA, Atlanta; WTTW, Chicago; WILL, Urbana, Ill.; and KERA, Dallas. Each founding member station has a representative on the nonprofit’s board of directors. JCT Services, a for-profit entity of WJCT, will run the operation.
A new configuration of public TV stations in Alaska will begin sharing a single programming feed July 1 under the name Alaska Public Television, a move that shifts distribution duties from KUAC in Fairbanks to KAKM in Anchorage. The change disbands AlaskaOne, a network operated by KUAC for 17 years that excluded Anchorage. KUAC will not participate in Alaska Public Television but will attempt to make it on its own with a renewed focus on programming tailored to its local community. Viewers in Anchorage will receive much the same programming from Alaska Public Television as before, while viewers of Bethel’s KYUK and Juneau’s KTOO may notice some changes. The centralcasting facility at KAKM allows for program feeds customized for each station, but that option will not be used at first.
The pull of economic strains and push of technical advancements continue to spark collaborations among stations, with seven pubTV outlets signing onto a CPB-backed joint master-control project in Florida and two Oregon stations preparing to link via fiber lines and share a single schedule. The CPB Board on March 27 unanimously approved a $7 million grant for a centralcasting facility that will serve six stations in Florida and one in Georgia. The Jacksonville Digital Convergence Alliance LLC will run one master control with customized programming streams for WJCT in Jacksonville; WFSU, Tallahassee; WPBT, Miami; WBCC/WUCF, Orlando; Tampa stations WUSF and WEDU; and WPBA, Atlanta. Depending on how many additional stations sign on, the participating pubcasters will save as much as $20 million over 10 years, according to CPB’s estimates. Cost savings have become imperative, as CPB’s supplementary appropriation for digital projects is nearly depleted.
By having two or three big master-control facilities oversee the digital assembly and transmission of broadcast schedules for all of the nation’s public TV stations, the field could save tens of millions of dollars a year, according to Mark Erstling, CPB senior v.p., system development and media strategy. CPB will cover a big part of the costs of public TV’s first two “centralcasting” setups this year, Erstling says. On Sept. 19, the CPB Board approved a $6.6 million grant to equip a centralcasting facility in Syracuse, N.Y., for all nine pubTV stations in New York State plus New Jersey’s four-station network. The grant covers about 90 percent of the cost of the project, to be located in the new home of WCNY-FM/TV in downtown Syracuse.