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Let's Get Digital

Nov. 2, 2003

By Stephanie Schneider


Baylor's KWBU-TV has become a leader in the move to bring digital broadcasting to Central Texans. In January 2003, the PBS affiliate introduced a digital broadcast signal to almost 800,000 viewers. The move made it the third of 14 Texas PBS stations and the 91st of 350 stations across the nation to offer a digital signal.

In addition to KWBU-TV's main channel (Channel 34 over the air, Channel 4 on cable) and new KWBU KIDS channel (Channel 8 on Time-Warner Cable only), the station now offers digital transmission of both a standard and a high definition television (HDTV) channel. Both digital channels are available over the air, but only viewers with an HDTV receiver in addition to their digital cable box can receive the HDTV transmission.

The HDTV channel has included broadcasts of "Tracks Ahead," "Over Ireland" and "Travels with Rudy Maxa," and will air a locally produced special titled "Christmas at Baylor" this December. HDTV broadcasts also carry widescreen, standard definition television programming.

"Now that we have the technology, we are waiting for PBS to catch up with programming done in high definition," KWBU-TV and KWBU-FM general manager Kliff Kuehl said.

Kuehl said digital broadcasting is the second phase of KWBU-TV's efforts to increase its number of potential viewers. In August 2002 an upgraded transmission system almost quadrupled the area covered by the station's broadcast signal.

Between the time that KWBU upgraded its analog signal and installed the full power digital transmitter, Kuehl said the station participated in a joint broadcasting test with PBS affiliate KERA-TV in Dallas. The project helped demonstrate the capabilities of datacasting and digital broadcasting's applications to homeland security.

Kuehl said having a digital transmitter and HDTV production gear could pave the way for high definition versions of programming already produced by KWBU, such as "Inside Baylor Sports," which could air both locally and nationally on HDNET.

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