East Tennessee PBS

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WETP-TV / WKOP-TV
ET PBS icon.jpg
WETP: Sneedville/Johnson City/Kingsport/Bristol, Tennessee
WKOP: Knoxville, Tennessee
Branding East Tennessee PBS
Channels Digital:
WETP: 41 (UHF)
WKOP: 17 (UHF)
Subchannels 2.1/15.1 PBS
2.2/15.2 World
2.3/15.3 Create
Affiliations PBS
Owner East Tennessee Public Communications Corporation
First air date WETP: March 15, 1967; 47 years ago (1967-03-15)
WKOP: August 15, 1990; 23 years ago (1990-08-15)
Call letters' meaning WETP:
East
Tennessee
Public Television
WKOP:
Knoxville's Own Public Television
Former callsigns WETP:
WSJK-TV (1967-2002)
WKOP: none
Former channel number(s) Analog:
WETP: 2 (1967-2009)
WKOP: 15 (1990-2008)
Former affiliations NET (1967-1970)
Transmitter power WETP: 445 kW
WKOP: 100 kW
Height WETP: 566.6 m
WKOP: 551.3 m
Facility ID WETP: 18252
WKOP: 18267
Transmitter coordinates WETP:
36°22′51.5″N 83°10′49.8″W / 36.380972°N 83.180500°W / 36.380972; -83.180500 (WETP-TV)
WKOP:
35°59′44.4″N 83°57′23.1″W / 35.995667°N 83.956417°W / 35.995667; -83.956417 (WKOP-TV)
Website www.EastTennesseePBS.org

East Tennessee PBS is a state network of two Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member Public television stations serving the Knoxville and Tri-Cities regions of East Tennessee. Both channels share the same schedule:

The network consists of:

  • WETP-TV (digital 41, PSIP 2) Sneedville (serving the Tri-Cities)
  • WKOP-TV (digital 17, PSIP 15) Knoxville

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

WETP-TV was founded on March 15, 1967 as WSJK-TV (Sneedville-Johnson City-Knoxville), the first in a series of four stations that the Tennessee Board of Education would establish over the next 12 years, the others being WLJT-TV in Martin, WTCI-TV in Chattanooga, and WCTE-TV in Cookeville. The transmitter was built on Short Mountain near Sneedville not by choice, but by necessity (see below). Studios were located on rented space at the University of Tennessee's communications building in Knoxville with a satellite studio located at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. Reception was spotty at best, due to the long distance the signal had to travel and the rugged mountainous terrain between that area and Short Mountain. Even in the Tri-Cities area, many areas also received a less than adequate signal. The Tri-Cities wouldn't get a city-grade signal from PBS until WSBN-TV in Norton, Virginia, started in 1971 as a satellite of WBRA-TV in Roanoke.

However, WSJK was constrained by two issues. First, the 1955 legislation authorizing a public television system in the state mandated that these stations serve the school populations in their areas first, before all other considerations. Also, the channel 2 analog signal traveled a very long distance under most conditions, and WSJK was short-spaced to WDCN-TV in Nashville (now WNPT on channel 8; the channel 2 frequency was later occupied by WKRN-TV), WSB-TV in Atlanta, and WFMY-TV in Greensboro, North Carolina. Sneedville, located about halfway between the Tri-Cities and Knoxville (and just a few miles south of the Virginia state line), was the only location that could best serve the school populations in the most efficient way, while at the same time protecting WDCN, WSB, and WFMY from interference.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally defined the Short Mountain transmitter site "a broadcasting island" because it was so surrounded by possible interference. In granting the construction permit, the FCC stipulated that WSJK's transmitter could not be moved even 1 mile (1.6 km) in any direction. Moving it west would have caused co-channel interference with WDCN, moving it east would have caused interference with WFMY, and moving it to the south would have caused interference with WSB-TV. While moving it north would not have exposed it to potential interference (the nearest channel 2 station northward being WLWD, now WDTN, in Dayton, Ohio, over 250 miles (400 km) away and shielded by the mountains of southeastern Kentucky) to do so would have prevented the Knoxville area from getting even a rimshot signal. Thus, Short Mountain was one of only a few broadcasting transmitter sites in the entire U.S., prior to the 2009 digital transition, that could not be physically relocated in any direction.

The FCC had already allocated channel 15 to Knoxville for non-commercial use, and plans to activate it as a satellite of WSJK cropped up from 1972 onward. There were also attempts to activate a satellite in the Tri-Cities on channel 41. However, they all collapsed, due to a lack of state funding to match the available federal funding, a situation largely caused by the 1970s economic recessions affecting state revenues. Since the Board of Education had begun all but one of its proposed stations by that point, priority was given to starting up WCTE for the Upper Cumberland region, the last large area of the state that had no public television service at all; that station did not come online until 1978. As a result, WSJK became, quite by default, the only public television station in the northern two-thirds of East Tennessee. This left Knoxville as one of the largest markets in the country without a city-grade signal from PBS. Most of the Knoxville area didn't get a clear signal from the station until cable arrived in the mid-1970s.

Nonetheless, WSJK managed to make a name for itself in the area. It was the exclusive provider of on-site video at the 1982 World's Fair and also was the first station to air regularly-scheduled broadcasts of Tennessee Volunteers basketball.

A Knoxville station at last[edit]

In 1981, the state legislature passed a law that allowed the state board to transfer its four stations to community organizations (WKNO-TV in Memphis and WDCN in Nashville were operated by, respectively, a community board and the local school board, and were never part of the state system). WSJK was the first to complete the separation in 1983; operational control was transferred to the East Tennessee Public Communications Corporation. Eventually, the state discontinued even token financial support of the four PBS stations after they were emancipated; this did not adversely affect the stations, because their release to community boards had already encouraged them to develop different sources of financial support.

Almost immediately, the new authority approved plans to build WKOP as the PBS station for the Knoxville area, with WSJK reoriented to serve the Tri-Cities (though it still provided "rimshot" coverage of Knoxville over the air). WKOP began broadcasting on August 15, 1990, on channel 15 from a transmitter and tower located on top of Sharp's Ridge. Although channel 2 (and still is) reckoned as the main station, its main studios have always been located in Knoxville. In the late 1980s, the station's facilities were moved to East Magnolia Avenue, on the other side of Downtown from the UT campus.

In 2000, WSJK-DT (channel 41) and WKOP-DT (channel 17) started operations. On December 25, 2002, WSJK-TV was renamed WETP-TV. For the next seven and a half years, both stations would use the branding "East Tennessee Public Television" or "ETP-TV" for short.

In July 2008, due to an equipment malfunction, WKOP shut down its analog signal and began airing solely in digital. WETP turned off its analog signal with the formal end of analog broadcasting in the United States on February 17, 2009.[1]

As of March 9, 2009, WETP-DT and WKOP-DT both air PBS World (now simply "World") and Create on their digital subchannels.

In August 2010, WETP and WKOP rebranded as "East Tennessee PBS."

Digital Television[edit]

Channels (WETP/WKOP) Name Video Aspect Programming
2.1/15.1 EPT 1080i 16:9 Main ETPBS Programming / PBS
2.2/15.2 ETP2 480i 4:3 World and TN Channel
2.3/15.3 ETP3 Create

Out-of-market cable coverage[edit]

In recent years, WETP has been carried on cable in multiple areas within the Knoxville media market in Kentucky and the Charlotte and Greensboro markets in North Carolina.[2][3] According to Zap2it, WETP has been carried on cable in College Grove, which is within the Nashville market.[4]

References[edit]

External links[edit]