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CityRoanoke, Virginia
BrandingBlue Ridge PBS
OwnerBlue Ridge Public Television, Inc.
First air date
August 1, 1967 (56 years ago) (1967-08-01)
Former channel number(s)
Analog: 15 (UHF, 1967–2009)
NET (1967–1970)
Call sign meaning
Blue Ridge Educational Television Association[2]
Technical information[3]
Licensing authority
Facility ID5981
  • 614.3 m (2,015 ft)
  • 630.6 m (2,069 ft) (CP)[1]
Transmitter coordinates37°11′46″N 80°9′16″W / 37.19611°N 80.15444°W / 37.19611; -80.15444 (WBRA-TV)
Public license information

WBRA-TV (channel 15) is a PBS member television station in Roanoke, Virginia, United States, owned by Blue Ridge Public Television, Inc. The station's studios are located on McNeil Drive in southwest Roanoke, and its transmitter is located on Poor Mountain in unincorporated southwestern Roanoke County.


WBRA-TV signed on for the first time on August 1, 1967. It claims to be the first all-color educational station in the country. It was originally a member of National Educational Television (NET), before that organization was replaced by PBS in 1970.

In the 1980s, WBRA began identifying on-air as Blue Ridge Public Television, due to its location near the Blue Ridge Mountains. On February 19, 2007, it changed its on-air name to Blue Ridge PBS.

WBRA established two satellite transmitters—WSVN-TV (channel 47) in Norton was activated in 1971 and WMSY-TV (channel 52) in Marion began operations in 1981. WSBN brought a city-grade PBS signal to the Tri-Cities for the first time. On March 14, 1983, WSVN-TV changed its call sign to WSBN-TV. This allowed then-NBC affiliate WCKT (channel 7, now a Fox affiliate as WSVN) in Miami, Florida, to change its call sign three months later. Both stations were also carried on the Tri-Cities DirecTV and Dish Network feeds.

In March 2013, Blue Ridge PBS announced that it would close both WSBN-TV and WMSY-TV by June 30, 2013, leaving East Tennessee PBS outlet WETP as the sole source of PBS programming in the Tri-Cities. The move came as a result of budget cuts that followed the elimination of Virginia's funding for public broadcasting stations in 2012. However, station president James Baum told The Roanoke Times that there were no plans to tear down the transmitters, leaving the possibility that WSBN and WMSY could return in the future.[4]

In October 2014, Blue Ridge PBS relaunched WSBN-TV and WMSY-TV as Southwest Virginia Public Television (SWVAPT), which carried a secondary schedule incorporating programming of relevance to the region (such as Song of the Mountains and locally-produced content) and national PBS programs. The service was also carried on WBRA-DT2 and local cable providers.[5][6] In 2017, the two stations went off the air, and were sold for nearly $5.8 million in the FCC's spectrum incentive auction; station management cited that residents of the Tri-Cities region could receive PBS service from Blue Ridge PBS and other nearby stations such as WETP-TV, KET, PBS North Carolina, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting, although the mountainous terrain of the region makes it difficult to receive over-the-air signals.[7]

In August 2021, Blue Ridge PBS launched ECHO (Education, Community, Health, Opportunity)—a new subchannel and streaming platform featuring locally-produced, "community based" educational programming.[8]

In September 2022, Blue Ridge PBS announced that it would launch a new local PBS service for Southwest Virginia, PBS Appalachia Virginia, which launched in June 2023. Unlike its predecessors, PBS Appalachia Virginia is structured as a digital- and cable-only broadcaster and does not offer an over-the-air service.[9][10] As part of the launch, SWVAPT was replaced on WBRA-DT2 by "Blue Ridge PBS 2".

Technical information[edit]


The station's signal is multiplexed:

Subchannels of WBRA-TV[11]
Channel Res. Aspect Short name Programming
15.1 1080i 16:9 WBRA-HD Main WBRA-TV programming / PBS
15.2 SWVAPTV Blue Ridge PBS 2 / PBS (alternate)
15.3 BRKIDS PBS Kids
15.4 480i Create Create
15.5 ECHO ECHO / Educational independent

Former relays[edit]

Station City of license Channels
First air date Last air date ERP HAAT Facility ID Transmitter coordinates Former callsigns
WSBN-TV1 Norton 47
32 (UHF)
March 30, 1971 (1971-03-30) March 27, 2017 (2017-03-27)
(45 years, 362 days)
(license canceled November 3, 2017)
100 kW 591 m (1,939 ft) 5985 36°53′53″N 82°37′21″W / 36.89806°N 82.62250°W / 36.89806; -82.62250 (WSBN-TV) WSVN-TV (1971–1983)
WMSY-TV Marion 52
42 (UHF)
August 1, 1981 (1981-08-01) March 27, 2017 (2017-03-27)
(35 years, 238 days)
(license canceled November 3, 2017)
100 kW 448 m (1,470 ft) 5982 36°54′7″N 81°32′32″W / 36.90194°N 81.54222°W / 36.90194; -81.54222 (WMSY-TV)


  • 1. WSBN-TV used the callsign WSVN-TV until March 14, 1983.

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

Blue Ridge PBS' stations shut down their analog signals on June 12, 2009, the official date on which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital channel allocations post-transition are as follows:[12]

  • WBRA-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 15; the station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 3, using virtual channel 15.
  • WSBN-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 47; the station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 32, using virtual channel 47.
  • WMSY-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 52; the station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 42, using virtual channel 52.


  1. ^ a b c "Channel Substitution/Community of License Change". Licensing and Management System. Federal Communications Commission. November 18, 2022. Retrieved November 19, 2022.
  2. ^ "History of Blue Ridge PBS". wbra.org.
  3. ^ "Facility Technical Data for WBRA-TV". Licensing and Management System. Federal Communications Commission.
  4. ^ Berrier Jr., Ralph (March 27, 2013). "Blue Ridge PBS to go dark in far Southwest Virginia". The Roanoke Times. Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  5. ^ Berrier Jr., Ralph (October 26, 2014). "Media notes: Blue Ridge PBS launches new channel". Roanoke Times.
  6. ^ "Blue Ridge PBS announces Southwest Virginia Public Television". The Bristol Herald Courier. October 4, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  7. ^ Wyllie, Julian (September 8, 2022). "An all-digital public TV station for Southwest Virginia is slated to launch next year". Current. Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  8. ^ Dashiell, Joe (June 10, 2021). "Blue Ridge PBS launches new education channel". WDBJ-TV. Gray Television. Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  9. ^ Wyllie, Julian (September 8, 2022). "An all-digital public TV station for Southwest Virginia is slated to launch next year". Current. Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  10. ^ Winslow, George (June 9, 2023). "PBS Appalachia Virginia Launches First All-Digital Public TV Station". TVTechnology. Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  11. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WBRA
  12. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 29, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2012.

External links[edit]