WNMU-TV Receives $1 Million Grant

WNMU-TV has received a $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development grant to help the station complete the first step toward its digital conversion. Shown during a ceremonial check presentation at today's NMU Board of Trustees meeting are (from left) Congressman Bart Stupak, Les Wong, Gene DeRossett of USDA Rural Development in Michigan, NMU Board Chair Karl Weber, and Eric Smith (Broadcast and A/V Services).


Smith said the master control project in progres is one of two upgrades required to make the full conversion to digital television. The other is a transmitter replacement project, for which grant opportunities are being explored. The combined technology improvements will enhance picture and sound quality and allow WNMU-TV to “multicast” – broadcast multiple program channels from the same spectrum in addition to regular PBS programming. Multicasting could be used to provide educational content for K-12 and university classes and to improve continuing education opportunities.

“It will cost about $1.4 million to complete the conversion,” Smith said. “That cost seemed overwhelming at times because of the lean budget years we’ve experienced recently, but this grant really opens the door for us. We appreciate the USDA’s willingness to invest in public broadcasting at NMU.”


Gene DeRossett of USDA Rural Development in Michigan added: “We are pleased to help NMU expand and improve its broadcasting services. Residents across the Upper Peninsula will benefit from this upgrade. Our goal is to improve the quality of life for all rural Michigan.”


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that all television broadcasters make the switch to digital. The current deadline is February 2009.


“WNMU-TV has been an excellent cultural and educational resource – not only for Marquette, but for the entire Upper Peninsula,” said Congressman Bart Stupak in a news release. “I am pleased to see the federal government assist with their transition to digital television.”


The FCC ruling does not extend to radio, but WNMU-FM received an $85,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to replace its aging transmitter and convert to digital.


“We were having a hard time finding parts for it when there was a problem,” Smith said. “Since we had a transmitter in great need, we just latched on to this grant opportunity, which was available to stations interested in moving away from analog. We weren’t planning to upgrade the FM this soon, but when presented with the opportunity, we said, ‘Why not?’ The nice thing about this is that no new equipment is required on the receiving end. Existing radios will work, though people who want to get better quality and signal reception can invest in a new digital radio.


Smith said the new FM transmitter should be functional by mid-December.


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Updated: October 6, 2006

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