Maine Public Broadcasting Network
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (December 2011)|
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WCBB 10 (VHF)
WMEB-TV 9 (VHF)
WMEM-TV 10 (VHF)
WMED-TV 10 (VHF)
WMEA-TV 45 (UHF)
|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|
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. 
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. It was a combined venture of Colby College, Bates College, and Bowdoin College. Two years later, WMEB-TV signed on from UMaine's campus in Orono, near Bangor. 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 these stations was WMEA-TV in Biddeford, near Portland; however, it was (and still is) practically unviewable over the air in Portland itself and points north. UMaine 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 radio, 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; 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, and W30BF in Bangor, which launched on April 16, 1994. Cuts in federal funding led to the elimination of MPT Plus on June 30, 1996; WMEA and W30BF then reverted to carrying the primary Maine Public Television service (though the latter station was sold in 1999 and is now JCTV affiliate WCKD-LP), while W39BQ eventually ceased operations.
MPBN's radio service carries a mixed format of news and information from NPR, PRI, and other sources, as well as a three-hour block of classical music on weekdays between 9 a.m.and 12 noon and some evening music programming. It is one of the few NPR members in New England that still carries a significant amount of music programming.
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.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2008)|
In the course of 24 months in 2000 and 2001, 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.
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 after a few months.
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.
Maine humorist Robert Skoglund, a.k.a. The Humble Farmer, host of a weekly jazz and humor program of the same name on MPBN since 1978, aired comments in 2003 pointed at the Republican administration under President George W. Bush. Without citing Bush by name, Skogland compared Bush to Adolf Hitler (and, in a later program, Mussolini). As a result, he was verbally admonished for violating the station's political neutrality guidelines which Skoglund signed and pledged to observe in 1992. Later, in violation of those 1992 guidelines, Skoglund submitted a pre-recorded program for broadcast on November 3, 2007, in which he read a letter on-air that advocated a "no" vote on the controversial Taxpayer Bill of Rights referendum question due before Maine voters four days later. MPBN reacted to the latter by not airing the program, claiming that it also violated the station's political neutrality guidelines. Skoglund protested by going silent - limiting his vocal utterances during the program to one or two identifications of songs or musicians. After two weeks of Skoglund's silence, MPBN VP for Programming, Charles Beck, sent Skoglund a letter telling him that politicizing a program MPBN kept on the air for its jazz and humor content would lead to the show's cancellation if such attempts continued. MPBN then crafted written guidelines for every member of the on-air staff, asking each to indicate with a signature his or her acceptance of MPBN directives with regard to keeping politically charged content out of local entertainment programming and not using the public's airwaves to further their own personal political agendas. Skoglund, who had signed the 1992 guidelines, refused to sign the updated and tightened guidelines. He is quoted on a pro-Skoglund web site as having no recollection of the 1992 guidelines and attributes his removal from the air as being related to "get out the vote" calls he made on behalf of Democrats, which MPBN did not and does not object to.
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. In addition, MPBN's radio and television stations would leave the air for five hours each night, as an energy saving measure. 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.
In part of the response from viewers and listeners in the affected regions, MPBN delayed their closures until February 28, 2009, at earliest. 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 Governor Baldacci.
Attempt to eliminate state funding
In 2012, Governor Paul LePage proposed eliminating all state funding for MPBN from the budget, referring to such aid as "corporate welfare". 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.
MPBN operates 5 full-power television stations:
|Station||City of license
(other cities served)
|First air date||Call letters’
|Facility ID||Transmitter Coordinates|
|10 (VHF)||November 13, 1961||Colby
Bowdoin (original owners)
|29.7 kW||304 m||39659|
|9 (VHF)||September 23, 1963||Maine
|15 kW||375 m||39648|
|WMEM-TV||Presque Isle||10 (VHF)||February 17, 1964||Maine
|14.5 kW||353 m||39662|
|WMED-TV||Calais||10 (VHF)||September 15, 1965||Maine
|3.5 kW||134 m||39649|
|WMEA-TV1||Biddeford (Portland)||45 (UHF)||March 15, 1975||Maine
|50 kW||231 m||39656|
- 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, causing many of MPBN's viewers to lose the signal.
MPBN also operates 4 translator stations:
MPBN's digital channels are multiplexed:
|XX.1||Main MPBN programming / PBS|
|XX.2||SD simulcast of XX.1|
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, a three-hour delayed feed of the main MPBN signal in standard definition was offered until February 5, 2013 when it was replaced by Maine Capitol Connection, which covers the Maine Legislature, which was also carried over the air on a fourth subchannel. The delayed feed returned in July 2013 when the legislature ended its session and the fourth subchannel ended.
MPBN operates 7 radio transmitters:
|WMEA||90.1 FM||C||Portland||April 1974||39655|
|WMEP||90.5 FM||B||Camden||February 4, 2002||92566|
|WMEW||91.3 FM||A||Waterville||August 30, 1984||39645|
|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|
- Bell Aliant channel 8 (SD) and 408 (HD) and other cable providers.
- Briefs on WCBB-MPBN merger from Current
- Looking back. (Lewiston) Sun-Journal, 2006-09-13
- 1963 in History
- McGarrigle, Dale (January 24, 1994). "New MPT Plus offers programming choices". Bangor Daily News. pp. 17–8. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
- Joy, Pam (January 6, 1994). "Public TV station adds another channel". Sun Journal. p. 6. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
- "MPT Plus goes on line in Bangor". Bangor Daily News. April 18, 1994. Retrieved August 26, 2012. (preview of subscription content)
- Joy, Pam (May 22, 1996). "Public TV pulls PLUS". Sun Journal. pp. 1–8A. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
- Fybush, Scott (October 9, 1996). "Meet the New 'FNX...". New England RadioWatch. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
- Fybush, Scott (April 16, 1999). "Raleigh Retires, Bruds Cuts Back Hours at WBZ". North East RadioWatch. Retrieved August 26, 2012.
- Post to the Host from Prairie Home Companion and American Public Media
- Routhier, Ray (December 18, 2008). "MPBN to reach fewer Mainers". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved December 18, 2008.
- "MPBN Announces Layoffs and Transmitter Shutdowns". Maine Public Broadcasting Network. December 18, 2008. Retrieved December 18, 2008.
- MPBN: "Listeners React To MPBN Cutbacks", 12/19/2008.
- MPBN press release, "MPBN to Delay Planned Transmitters Closures in Fort Kent, Calais", 1/6/2009.
- MPBN press release: "MPBN Works to Avert Transmitter Shutdowns", 2/12/2009.
- Bangor Daily News story, "MPBN to fight LePage proposal to eliminate its state funding", 3/19/2012
- Bangor Daily News story, "Committee approves supplemental budget after stripping many items proposed by LePage", 4/10/2012
- Maine Today/Portland Press Herald: "MPBN going all digital early", 12/10/2008
- Growing pains: MPBN takes hit for digital TV switch, Eric Russell, Bangor Daily News, January 19, 2009
- 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.
- Federal Communications Commission (2002-02-04). "FM Broadcast Station License". Retrieved 2008-02-16. File number BLED-20011113ABV.
- Maine Public Broadcasting's main site
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WCBB
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WMEM
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WMEB
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WMEA
- Query the FCC's TV station database for WMED
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WCBB-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WMEM-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WMEB-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WMEA-TV
- BIAfn's Media Web Database -- Information on WMED-TV