WPSU-TV is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station licensed to Clearfield, Pennsylvania, United States, and serving West-Central Pennsylvania. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 15 (or virtual channel 3 via PSIP) from its transmitter located seven miles (11 km) north of Clearfield in Lawrence Township. Licensed to the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees as a part of Penn State Public Media, WPSU-TV maintains production and broadcast facilities at Innovation Park on Penn State's State College campus. It is sister to NPR member station WPSU (91.5 FM) and student radio station WKPS ("The Lion 90.7 FM").
Penn State has a long history of using new media to extend access to education. It was the first American institution of higher education to offer agricultural correspondence courses in 1892. When radio became popular in the 1920s, the institution tried broadcasting courses and was the first U.S. university to experiment with closed-circuit television delivery in the 1940s. Penn State hosted a conference on April 20, 1952, at Nittany Lion Inn where the federal government announced its decision to set aside bandwidth to support non-commercial educational television stations. This conference led to the creation of national educational television broadcasting and later to the creation of PBS.
After Congress passed the Educational Facilities Act on May 1, 1962, which provided federal funding for the construction of educational television stations, Penn State was granted a transmitter construction permit in September 1964 and became the first educational television station in Pennsylvania to be licensed to a university, and the 101st such station in the U.S.
Construction of the tower and transmitter site began on Penfield Mountain, seven miles (11 km) north of Clearfield. The 539-foot (164 m) tower was built on Rattlesnake Mountain to comply with the FCC "legal triangle" that required 170 miles (274 km) to separate co-channels. Because the Wagner Annex studio was not yet completed, video playback machines, film and slide chains, and audio tape equipment were installed at the transmitter site in conjunction with a "mobile recording unit".
The "X" in the original call sign WPSX-TV denotes that the station was an extension of Penn State. "The establishment of the station," said Dr. Eric Walker, then-president of the university, "will enable Penn State to expand its educational services".
WPSX-TV was led by Marlow Froke, director of the Division of Broadcasting at Penn State, as a unit of Continuing Education. On March 1, 1965, under his leadership in cooperation with the newly-formed Allegheny Educational Broadcast Council (AEBC) advisory board, WPSX-TV broadcast to 124 elementary and secondary schools across Pennsylvania to supplement the curriculum and provide in-service training for teachers. The first day's lineup included Saludos Amigos, Primary Concepts in Math, Focus on Fitness, and 12 other programs between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Froke, a former journalism instructor and radio-television newsman, said in a 1965 Altoona Mirror interview, "Television can combine all the channels of communication—sight, sound, and motion—to give the greatest impact on the student". During the first WPSX-TV broadcast school year, the classroom TV service reached approximately 250,000 students in 22 counties.
Evening programs of culture, public affairs, and adult education were added on June 7, 1965, in a Monday-to-Friday, 7–11 p.m. schedule. Saturday and Sunday programming was not added until nearly two years later.
Once the microwave link that carried the broadcast signal to Wagner was completed, WPSX-TV began moving its broadcast and studio operations to its new facility. On December 10, 1965, engineering, production and programming staff were all based at the Wagner studios for the first time, and remained there until a new digital broadcast facility was dedicated on September 8, 2005, as the Outreach Building in Innovation Park.
WPSX-TV drew upon Penn State's faculty and staff to develop original programming for the new evening lineup. Art History 10, which was hosted by assistant professor of art history Carl Barnes and covered painting, architecture, and sculpture, was the first University credit course to be produced for broadcast in late 1965. Public affairs programs covered national, state and University issues. In 1969, P. J. O'Connell produced The Year Behind, the Year Ahead, reporting on the events that led to the student sit-in protest on Old Main Lawn.
O'Connell and co-producer Kimberlie Kranich went on the create the Rural American Documentary Project (later renamed Pennsylvania Parade) with more than 150 titles that captured the life, joys, and struggles of rural Pennsylvanians, including Notes on an Appalachia County: Visiting with Darlene, Notes on an American Business, and Profiles of Rural Religion: Go and I'll Be With You.
In the midst of this growth, the public television movement gained traction, which signified the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in 1967 and two years later PBS to manage the programming of public television national interconnections.
In the 1970s, the station joined a statewide community service project, broadcasting programs that focused on community issues and organizing community meetings in the viewing area. Children's shows were developed with the College of Education. A popular weekly current affairs program What's in the News went national.
The shift of PBS stations to satellite communication brought several innovations to WPSX-TV. In 1978, WPSX-TV joined the Appalachian Educational Satellite Project (AESP) that delivered teacher education courses, nursing courses, and other educational resources to isolated communities in the Appalachian chain. WPSX-TV set up its first national satellite conference from Penn State in 1980 for the faculty in Nuclear Engineering, which extended access to education for adult, part-time learners. WPSX-TV and a group of cable operators also helped set up PENNARAMA, a 24-hour channel that offered credit courses and other educational programs.
Meanwhile, the radio station WDFM was renamed WPSU-FM in August 1984. It broadcast student programming, classical music and news. In 1986, it started to air NPR programs such as All Things Considered (June 1986) and Morning Edition (fall 1987). In 1994, WPSU-FM joined WPSX-TV to become Penn State Public Broadcasting. WPSX-TV began 24-hour broadcast schedules in 1998.
With the advent of digital television broadcasting, WPSX-TV became an innovator of distributed transmission of digital television signals. In 2003, experiments conducted by WPSX-TV helped develop FCC standards for implementation of the distributed transmission systems. WPSX Digital Channel 15 was set up to broadcast PBS digital programming exclusively.
In mid-2004, WPSX-TV was renamed WPSU-TV. The following summer, both WPSU-TV and WPSU-FM began broadcasting from new facilities at the Outreach Building in Innovation Park, State College.
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