WPBS-DT, virtual channel 16 (UHF digital channel 41), is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station licensed to Watertown, New York, United States and serving Upstate New York's North Country. The station is owned by the St. Lawrence Valley Educational TV Council. WPBS-DT's studios are located on Arsenal Street in Watertown, and its transmitter is located on St. Lawrence County Route 194 in Denmark.

WPBS operates a full-time satellite, WNPI-DT (virtual channel 18, UHF digital channel 23), licensed to Norwood, with transmitter in South Colton. The two stations combined have significant viewership in much of eastern Ontario, Canada, including Ottawa and Kingston.

History[edit | edit source]

The St. Lawrence Valley Educational Television Council, which was organized in 1958, originally produced educational television programming to be carried by local CBS affiliate WWNY-TV (channel 7). In 1971, it established an independent PBS station, WNPE-TV, using WWNY's original studios on Champion Hill as the commercial station had already relocated to a larger facility in Watertown. Full-time satellite WNPI signed on a few months later. Outgrowing the Champion Hill location itself, WNPE moved to a new building in Watertown in 1978.

Because of its large Canadian viewership, WNPE was one of the most successful PBS stations, with fundraising totals often exceeding those of stations in much larger markets.

For a minor sum, the rights to use the WPBS call letters were purchased from a small radio station in Conyers, Georgia in the late 1990s, and the callsign change took effect on September 1, 1998. Despite the calls, which mimic the callsign schemes used by stations owned by ABC, NBC and CBS in New York City and Los Angeles, it is not an owned-and-operated station, as PBS therefore cannot own or operate any of its member stations or regional member networks due to the network's local and non-profit nature; the WPBS callsign reflects the station's affiliation and programming, but not any special status within the PBS network.

Despite its strong viewership in Canada, Rogers Cable, the main cable provider in Ottawa, announced in July 2009 that it would replace WPBS on its systems with Detroit's WTVS by mid-August to provide a higher-quality PBS feed, as WTVS could be fed via fiber optic cable rather than from over-the-air signals. Shortly after receiving this news, a Facebook campaign called 'Save WPBS in Ottawa' (later renamed 'Ottawa Loves WPBS') urging Rogers to reconsider its decision to pull the station was launched, attracting hundreds of supporters, as well as local Ottawa politicians. On July 30, 2009, it was announced that WPBS would offer a fiber-optic feed of the station for Rogers transmitted from Buffalo, New York.

Erie, Pennsylvania's WQLN, which serves viewers in the London, Ontario area through Rogers, was also threatened with removal from the Rogers system; as with WPBS, WQLN offered a fiber connection with Rogers.


TV stations in New York
WNET, Newark/New York City

WLIW, Garden City/Long Island
WNJN/WNJB, Trenton/New Brunswick
WPBS/WNPI, Watertown/Norwood
WMHT, Schenectady/Albany
WNED, Buffalo
WXXI, Rochester
WCNY/W22DO-D, Syracuse/Deerfield
WSKG/WSKA, Binghamton/Corning
WCFE, Plattsburgh

TV Stations in Northern New York State and the St. Lawrence Valley, including Watertown
Watertown/Carthage St. Lawrence County
WWNY 7 (CBS) WNPI 18 (PBS)
WPBS 16 (PBS) WWNY-CD 28 (Fox)
WNYF-CD 28 (Fox)
WVNC-LD 45 (NBC)
WWTI 50 (ABC)
Defunct stations
WLOT-LP, Watertown
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