Maine Public Broadcasting Network

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Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Maine Public Broadcasting Network Logo.svg
statewide Maine
Branding MPBN
Slogan More to Explore
Channels Digital:
WCBB 10 (VHF)
WMEB-TV 9 (VHF)
WMEM-TV 10 (VHF)
WMED-TV 10 (VHF)
WMEA-TV 45 (UHF)
Subchannels x.1/x.2 PBS
x.3 World
x.4 Maine Capitol Connection
Affiliations PBS, NPR, BBC, CBC
Owner Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation
First air date November 13, 1961 (WCBB)
September 23, 1963 (original MPBN)
July 1, 1992 (current incarnation)
Former affiliations NET (1961-1970)
Transmitter coordinates see table below
Website www.mpbn.net

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network (abbreviated MPBN) is a state network of public television and radio stations located in the state of Maine in the United States. It is operated by the Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation, which holds the licenses for all the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) stations licensed in the state. MPBN has studios and offices in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor.

MPBN's television network shows a block of standard PBS programming, as well as many documentaries including nature programs and other science programs. MPBN's radio network airs news and talk programming from NPR, locally produced news programming, jazz and classical music.

MPBN's television and radio signals reach virtually all of the populated portions of Maine, and adjoining parts of New Hampshire and Massachusetts and the Canadian province of New Brunswick. MPBN Television is also carried on cable television in most of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.[1]

History[edit]

What is now MPBN dates from the 1992 merger of WCBB, the PBS member station for most of southern Maine, with the original MPBN radio and television stations operated by the University of Maine System.[2][3]

On November 13, 1961, WCBB signed on from Lewiston as the first educational television station in Maine and the third in New England, after WGBH-TV in Boston and WENH-TV in Durham, New Hampshire. Licensed to Augusta, it was a joint venture of Colby College, Bates College, and Bowdoin College.[4] Two years later, WMEB-TV began broadcasting from the University of Maine campus in Orono, near Bangor.[5] Over the next decade, UMaine signed on three other stations across the state, as well as several translators. These stations formed the original MPBN network. One of them was WMEG-TV in Biddeford, near Portland (now WMEA-TV); however, it was (and still is) practically unviewable over the air in Portland itself and points north.

The University of Maine System brought public radio to the state in 1970, when WMEH signed on from Bangor. Five other stations signed on over the next decade.

The two groups merged on July 1, 1992 to form the community-licensed Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation. MPBN's Bangor stations, WMEB-TV and WMEH (FM), became the flagship stations. The television stations adopted the on-air name "Maine Public Television", but dropped this in favor of "Maine PBS" in 1998. The radio stations became known as "Maine Public Radio". In 2006, they reverted to the "MPBN" moniker.

Following the merger, WMEA-TV became the flagship station for a secondary PBS service, Maine Public Television Plus;[6] unlike the main network, this service expanded its over-the-air reach through the use of low-power repeaters—W39BQ in Lewiston, which signed on January 1, 1994,[7] and W30BF in Bangor, which launched on April 16, 1994.[8] Cuts in federal funding led to the elimination of MPT Plus on June 30, 1996;[9] WMEA and W30BF then reverted to carrying the primary Maine Public Television service[10] (though the latter station was sold in 1999[11] and is now JCTV affiliate WCKD-LP), while W39BQ eventually ceased operations.

Radio Programming[edit]

MPBN's radio service carries a mixed format of news and information from NPR, PRI, and other sources. It also carries a three-hour block of classical music on weekdays between 9 a.m.and 12 noon and some evening music programming, one of the few NPR members in New England to still have a significant classical music program. Local programming includes Maine Calling, an interactive radio program hosted primarily by Jennifer Rooks and produced by Jonathan Smith. Various guests, often from Maine, are invited to participate in the discussion and audience members are encouraged to participate through calling in or through other forms of media. Accompanying NPR's All Things Considered, is Maine Things Considered, Maine's only daily statewide news program.

Television Programming[edit]

MPBN's television service carries the basic PBS program schedule, along with a handful of local programs, such as "The Maine Experience" (a feature magazine series), "Maine Watch" (a weekly public-affairs program), and live coverage of the annual Maine state high-school basketball playoffs.

Controversies[edit]

Metropolitan Opera Cancellation[edit]

In 2000, the live Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts on Saturday afternoons, which had been a mainstay of classical music broadcasting for more than twenty years, was discontinued. Despite Maine Public Broadcasting's claims that the opera was being dropped due to lack of popularity among listeners, a citizens' protest forced the state network to reinstate the Saturday afternoon opera a few months later.[12][13]

In the course of 24 months in 2000 and 2001, in what appeared to be a plan to significantly reduce local music programming, longtime classical music hosts Victor Hathaway, Virgil Bissett, Helen York and Dave Bunker left the station. Bissett retired, Bunker moved to southern Maine after his wife gained employment there. Despite Bunker's willingness to continue his popular morning music show from the Portland studios of MPBN, he was let go and Leitha Christie hired in his place. York resigned in protest. [14]

The "Sugartime!" Episode of Postcards from Buster[edit]

In May 2005, Maine Public Broadcasting joined a few other PBS stations in showing the controversial "Sugartime!" episode of Postcards from Buster. The program is about a cartoon rabbit named Buster Baxter, who travels the country with his father and interacts with children from different cultures and in different family structures. PBS headquarters had pulled the episode from its national broadcast schedule after receiving a critical letter from newly installed Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who was upset that Buster was visiting a Vermont family headed by two women. WGBH, the Boston-based PBS affiliate and original producer of the program, subsequently made the episode available to stations that still wished to air it on an individual basis.[15]

The Humble Farmer[edit]

Maine humorist Robert Skoglund, a.k.a. The Humble Farmer was host of a weekly jazz and humor program of the same name on MPBN starting in 1978.[16] The show was canceled in 2007 after a series of disagreements over whether some of Skoglund's comments were in violation of the station's policy of neutrality on political issues.[17] In 2003, in what is known as the War Rant, Skoglund spoke about a "weasely-faced war monger from way down south who didn't even get most of the popular vote," identifying the person as the author of Mein Kampf.[16][18][19] In 2006, he read passages from Encyclopedia Britannica about Fascism under Mussolini.[16][20] MPBN management regarded these to be veiled comparisons to George W. Bush and admonished Skoglund to refrain from political commentary.[16] On November 3, 2006 Skoglund submitted a prerecorded program in which he read a letter from a Maryland listener who described the effects of tax cuts in that state.[16][21] MPBN regarded this as advocating a position on Maine's upcoming Taxpayer Bill of Rights referendum question and chose to not air the program.[18] MPBN VP for Programming, Charles Beck, then sent Skoglund a letter outlining guidelines and warning him that further comments perceived as political would lead to the show's cancellation.[16][22] Arguing that the strict guidelines were setting him up to fail,[16] Skoglund discontinued all commentaries, speaking only to identify songs and musicians.[16][17][18] In 2007, MPBN required on-air staff to sign a revised policy agreement on political neutrality. Skoglund refused to sign and his program was cut June 13, 2007.[17]

Transmitter shutdowns[edit]

In December 2008, due to the economic crisis and lack of governmental funding, MPBN announced plans on temporarily closing down WMED-TV and -FM in Calais, and WMEF FM in Fort Kent, for at least six months, beginning January 2009.[23][24] In addition, MPBN's radio and television stations would leave the air for five hours each night, as an energy saving measure.[25] However, many viewers and listeners complained to MPBN for their actions. Another concern is for MPBN's role as the state's primary carrier for the Emergency Alert System, which will be hampered during the times it is not on the air, as well as in areas where aerial service has been discontinued.[25]

In part of the response from viewers and listeners in the affected regions, MPBN delayed their closures until February 28, 2009, at earliest.[26] On February 12, 2009, MPBN officially rescinded plans to close down the transmitters, after responses from its viewers and listeners, as well as stakeholders, legislators, and then-Governor John Baldacci.[27]

Attempt to eliminate state funding[edit]

In 2012, Governor Paul LePage proposed eliminating all state funding for MPBN from the budget, referring to such aid as "corporate welfare".[28] The Republican-controlled Legislature rejected this proposal and instead passed a budget directing MPBN funding be changed to a fee-for-service model instead of a general appropriation over the next five years.[29]

Television stations[edit]

MPBN operates 5 full-power television stations:

Station City of license
(other cities served)
Channels
(Digital)
First air date Call letters'
meaning
ERP
(Digital)
HAAT
(Digital)
Facility ID Transmitter Coordinates
WCBB Augusta
(Lewiston, Portland)
10 (VHF) November 13, 1961 Colby
Bates
Bowdoin (original owners)
29.7 kW 304 m 39659 44°9′15″N 70°0′34.7″W / 44.15417°N 70.009639°W / 44.15417; -70.009639 (WCBB)
WMEB-TV (flagship) Orono
(Bangor)
12 (VHF) September 23, 1963 Maine
Educational
Broadcasting
15 kW 375 m 39648 44°42′11.6″N 69°4′45.1″W / 44.703222°N 69.079194°W / 44.703222; -69.079194 (WMEB-TV)
WMEM-TV Presque Isle 10 (VHF) February 17, 1964 Maine
Educational
M
14.5 kW 353 m 39662 46°33′2″N 67°48′32″W / 46.55056°N 67.80889°W / 46.55056; -67.80889 (WMEM-TV)
WMED-TV Calais 13 (VHF) September 15, 1965 Maine
Educational
D
3.5 kW 134 m 39649 45°1′44.4″N 67°19′23.8″W / 45.029000°N 67.323278°W / 45.029000; -67.323278 (WMED-TV)
WMEA-TV1 Biddeford (Portland) 26 (UHF) March 15, 1975 Maine
Educational
A
50 kW 231 m 39656 43°25′0.3″N 70°48′15.2″W / 43.416750°N 70.804222°W / 43.416750; -70.804222 (WMEA-TV)

Notes:

  • 1. WMEA-TV used the callsign WMEG-TV from its 1975 sign-on until 1984.
  • 2. All main MPBN stations shut down their analog signals on January 11, 2009, over a month ahead of the original February 17 transition date,[30] causing many of MPBN's viewers to lose the signal.[31]

MPBN also operates 4 translator stations:

Station Analog Channel City
W04BH 4 Allagash
W04BS-D 4 Bethel
W03AM-D 3 Harrison
W05DD-D 5 St. Francis

Digital television[edit]

MPBN's digital channels are multiplexed:

Digital channels
Channel Programming
XX.1 Main MPBN programming / PBS
XX.2 SD simulcast of XX.1
XX.3 MPBN World
XX.4 Maine Capitol Connection

On October 27, 2010 MPBN added PBS World programming to its .3 subchannel, but had been offering it for several years on Time Warner Cable, which is available to a large number of subscribers throughout Maine. Also available on the digital cable tier is Create.

Radio stations[edit]

MPBN operates 7 radio transmitters:

Station Frequency Class City Founded[32] Facility ID
WMEA 90.1 FM C Portland April 1974 39655
WMEP 90.5 FM B Camden February 4, 2002[33] 92566
WMEW 91.3 FM A Waterville August 30, 1984 39645
WMEH 90.9 FM B Bangor 1970 39650
WMED 89.7 FM C2 Calais June 22, 1984 39646
WMEM 106.1 FM C Presque Isle 1978 39661
WMEF 106.5 FM C3 Fort Kent September 15, 1994 39653

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bell Aliant channel 8 (SD) and 408 (HD), Rogers channel 45 (SD) and 161 (HD), and other cable providers.
  2. ^ Briefs on WCBB-MPBN merger from Current
  3. ^ "MPBN Information". Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Looking back. (Lewiston) Sun-Journal, 2006-09-13
  5. ^ 1963 in History
  6. ^ McGarrigle, Dale (January 24, 1994). "New MPT Plus offers programming choices". Bangor Daily News. pp. 17–8. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  7. ^ Joy, Pam (January 6, 1994). "Public TV station adds another channel". Sun Journal. p. 6. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  8. ^ "MPT Plus goes on line in Bangor". Bangor Daily News. April 18, 1994. Retrieved August 26, 2012.  (preview of subscription content)
  9. ^ Joy, Pam (May 22, 1996). "Public TV pulls PLUS". Sun Journal. pp. 1–8A. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  10. ^ Fybush, Scott (October 9, 1996). "Meet the New 'FNX...". New England RadioWatch. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  11. ^ Fybush, Scott (April 16, 1999). "Raleigh Retires, Bruds Cuts Back Hours at WBZ". North East RadioWatch. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  12. ^ Groening, Tom (Nov 29, 2012). "MPBN pulls plug on 'Memory Lane,' ending 30-plus year run". The Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  13. ^ Sund, Debra. "County residents critical of MPBN". The Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  14. ^ York H.Y. Journals
  15. ^ Taylor, Scott. "MPBN ready to show 'Buster'". Sun Journal. Retrieved 22 April 2014. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h Groening, Tom. "MPBN's 'humble Farmer' claims station censored him". The Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  17. ^ a b c Egner, Jeremy. "Folksy deejay balks at ban on editorializing, loses gig on Maine network". Current. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  18. ^ a b c Egner, Jeremy. "Will the humble farmer become the fired farmer?". Current. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  19. ^ Skoglund, Robert. "War Rant". Humble Farmer. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  20. ^ "Fascism (text of read portion of Encyclopedia Britannica)". Humble Farmer. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  21. ^ Crowe, Mike. "The Humble Farmer". Fisherman's Voice, Vol. 14, No. 2 - February 2009. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  22. ^ Skoglund, Robert. "Guidelines". Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  23. ^ Routhier, Ray (December 18, 2008). "MPBN to reach fewer Mainers". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved December 18, 2008. 
  24. ^ "MPBN Announces Layoffs and Transmitter Shutdowns". Maine Public Broadcasting Network. December 18, 2008. Retrieved December 18, 2008. 
  25. ^ a b MPBN: "Listeners React To MPBN Cutbacks", 12/19/2008.
  26. ^ MPBN press release, "MPBN to Delay Planned Transmitters Closures in Fort Kent, Calais", 1/6/2009.
  27. ^ MPBN press release: "MPBN Works to Avert Transmitter Shutdowns", 2/12/2009.
  28. ^ Bangor Daily News story, "MPBN to fight LePage proposal to eliminate its state funding", 3/19/2012
  29. ^ Bangor Daily News story, "Committee approves supplemental budget after stripping many items proposed by LePage", 4/10/2012
  30. ^ Maine Today/Portland Press Herald: "MPBN going all digital early", 12/10/2008
  31. ^ Growing pains: MPBN takes hit for digital TV switch, Eric Russell, Bangor Daily News, January 19, 2009
  32. ^ Exact dates reflect the date on which the FCC issued a license for the station. The station will normally have been operating under program test authority for some months prior.
  33. ^ Federal Communications Commission (2002-02-04). "FM Broadcast Station License". Retrieved 2008-02-16.  File number BLED-20011113ABV.

External links[edit]