October 14, 2004

Grant helps pay for WSIU-TV's digital upgrade

by Bonnie Marx

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - Southern Illinois University Carbondale will take a giant step toward the complete digitalization of its two public broadcasting television stations with the help of a $998,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Candis S. Isberner, executive director of WSIU Public Broadcasting, said while the entire region already receives digital transmission, "this will allow us to turn our attention to the internal digital structure - - production and television master control."

SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler said the grant moves the University's nationally recognized Broadcasting Service ahead and will provide viewers and students with cutting-edge technology. "This is a significant grant and it takes us a step closer to digitalization," Wendler said.

Provost and Vice Chancellor John M. Dunn believes the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was signed into law in 1967, has remained true to its original goal of educating and informing while also being exciting and entertaining. "Now, with a better signal, better facilities and a better capacity to reach out, WSIU will be providing the highest standards of excellence to the public we serve."

The grant will allow the Broadcasting Service to acquire and install Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) innovative ACE system to build digital television master control facilities and to participate in the PBS Next Generation Interconnection System as the stations move into the digital era, generating substantial, long-term efficiencies in station operations.

The digitalization project is a federal-state-community partnership among the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, SIUC's College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, WSIU Public Television and private sector community supporters.

The project aims at accomplishing six goals, Isberner said. They are:

  • Completely modernizing WSIU's aging TV master control area;
  • Gaining program automation and digital server capability for the first time;
  • Aligning the WSIU television stations with national digital planning by PBS;
  • Gaining new efficiencies in staffing and equipment capabilities;
  • Improving the ability to insert digital television messages for program underwriters and local program and service announcements; and
  • Enabling WSIU to plan for future datacasting to provide educational and safety/security information as encoded data within the digital television signal.

Of paramount importance is the opportunity it will offer to SIUC students.

"It's part of our ongoing upgrade from analog to digital capabilities to support state-of-the-art training facilities for our students and for state-of-the-art television facilities to serve our region through local programming," Isberner said.

Engaging the whole student, shaping cooperative ventures and serving others are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

SIUC is one of 13 entities to receive the funding out of 61 applicants. The others are Iowa Public Television, New Hampshire Public Television, Wisconsin Public Television, Alabama Public Television, WHMT in Schenectady, N.Y., WILL at the University of Illinois, KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska, KNMU at Northern Michigan University, WCMU at Central Michigan University, WHYY in Philadelphia, Penn. and WITF in Harrisburg, Pa.

Projected cost for the master control facilities is just over $1.6 million. In addition to the CPB grant, support will come from the provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs ($250,000), the Office of the Dean of Mass Communication and Media Arts ($200,000) and local community support.

Direct community support includes more than $92,000 raised by the Friends of WSIU community advisory board through the annual Fantasy Auction and $70,000 in major gifts from Dr. Jitrenda and Mrs. Nivedita Trivedi of Mount Vernon and the late Julia Harrison Bruce of Herrin.

For additional information, contact Isberner at 618/453-4343 or candis.isberner@wsiu.org or Jack L. Hammer, chief engineer, at 618/453-6192 or jack.hammer@wsiu.org.