Recent rain and windy conditions adverse to outdoor construction work have twice delayed October Plan to Scan dates announced by WSBE Rhode Island PBS. The station remains "dark" to over-the-air viewers, as well as a number of cable customers. At press time, station officials could not predict the date of completion or subsequent scan date.
The situation exists following the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandate that TV stations “repack” or relocate their broadcast frequencies on the spectrum. WSBE Rhode Island PBS is moving its broadcast frequency from UHF to the VHF band. Rhode Island's only public television station is not alone in this move, however. About 1,000 other television stations nationwide must make the changes in phases scheduled between 2018 and 2020. WJAR NBC 10, and WLNE ABC 6 just completed their relocation after weather delay as well; WPRI CBS 12 relocated its frequency in June.
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What is unique to Rhode Island PBS, though, is its two channels have “gone dark” for over-the-air antenna viewers in Rhode Island and for Spectrum (Charter) customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and i3 Broadband (Full Channel) subscribers in Barrington, Warren and Bristol. Sharing space on the same tower as new transmitters and antennas of WJAR and WLNE, Rhode Island PBS powered down its transmitter until construction, transmitter upgrade, and frequency move are complete for all three systems.
“Of course, we hoped for the earliest possible completion date,” said Rhode Island PBS President David W. Piccerelli. “Our equipment is being installed lower on the tower than that of WJAR and WLNE, so work on our behalf was third in order. While we were looking forward to getting back on the air quickly, these delays still fall within the broader scheduled time frame.”
“The schedule is a living, dynamic document,” said Bill Allen, broadcast program manager for Stainless, the specialty construction contractors, in a memo to Rhode Island PBS. “(The document) serves as an estimate of sequencing and timing for planning purposes. Task sequencing is solely in the hands of the crew foreman based on varying site conditions.”
Those site conditions have varied considerably in recent weeks. Working in the upper quarter of a 1,000-foot tower is precarious under optimal weather conditions; rain and wind storms make work impossible.
As for alternatives for viewers who miss Rhode Island PBS’s content, Mr. Piccerelli offered suggestions.
“We invite viewers with Internet to access Local Live Streaming (LLC) of our main channel schedule on their smart TV or other Internet-connected device such as a computer, iPad, even mobile phone,” Piccerelli said. The station president also said a selection of PBS programs are available for free on watch.ripbs.org. Members of Rhode Island PBS may also activate their RIPBS | Passport benefit for expanded on-demand access to more than 1,500 PBS episodes, series, and documentaries online.
Mr. Piccerelli also recommended viewers with questions should visit the station’s Website for updates as they become available, as well as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Finally, viewers may also call the FCC Consumer Hotline at 1-888-CALLFCC (1-888-225-5322) and press 6 at the prompt.
“We regret any inconvenience this outage has caused. We extend our sincere thanks for the many kind messages of support, and for the public’s continued patience,” he said. “We look forward to coming back over the air as soon as the weather breaks long enough to finish the job safely.”
For updates and information about the broadcast frequency move, visit the station’s website at ripbs.org/PlanToScan.