Wisconsin Public Television

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Wisconsin Public Television
WPT Logo.png
statewide Wisconsin (except Milwaukee)
United States
(additional coverage in portions of Eastern Minnesota and Iowa,
Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Northern Illinois)
Slogan A Place to Grow Through Learning
Channels Digital: see table below
Subchannels see table below
Affiliations PBS (1970–present)
Owner Wisconsin Educational Communications Board,
University of Wisconsin–Extension
(Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System)
First air date WHA-TV: May 3, 1954
WPT network: 1972
Call letters' meaning see table below
Sister station(s) Wisconsin Public Radio
Former affiliations NET (1954–1970)
Transmitter power see table below
Height see table below
Facility ID see table below
Transmitter coordinates see table below
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Public Television Profile
Public Television CDBS
Website WPT.org

Wisconsin Public Television is a state network of public television stations operated primarily by the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board and the University of Wisconsin–Extension. It comprises all of the PBS member stations in the state outside of Milwaukee.

The state network is available via flagship station WHA-TV in Madison and five full-power satellite stations throughout most of Wisconsin. As of April 5, 2009, all stations have converted to digital-only transmissions. WPT is also available on most satellite and cable television outlets.

Until the gradual move of instructional broadcasting to IPTV services, Wisconsin Public Television was the main conduit of educational television, GED preparation and instructional television programming produced by the WECB, which aired through PBS, Annenberg Media, those stations serving portions of Wisconsin without a WPT station, and other educational television distributors. As of October 2014, the WECB now distributes this programming exclusively online, allowing Wisconsin Public Television to carry PBS programming full time.


WHA-TV signed on the air on May 3, 1954 as the first educational station in Wisconsin and the seventh in the United States. WHA-TV is the only public television station in the country that maintains a three-letter callsign, and one of only three analog-era UHF stations altogether (along with WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and WWJ-TV in Detroit, Michigan) with a three-letter callsign.

Wisconsin was a relative latecomer to educational television, despite its earlier leading role in educational radio. Channel 21's radio sister, WHA-AM, is one of the oldest educational radio stations in the world. By the time channel 21 signed on, UW had already launched a radio network that evolved into today's Wisconsin Public Radio. However, for most of the time from the 1950s through the 1970s, it was one of only three stations in the state that was a member of National Educational Television and its successor, PBS. The others were WMVS (channel 10) and WMVT (channel 36) in Milwaukee. The only other areas of the state outside of Milwaukee and Madison that had a clear signal from an NET/PBS member station were the northwest (from Duluth, Minnesota's WDSE-TV) and the southwest (from the Twin Cities's KTCA-TV).

In 1971, the state legislature created the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, activating five stations as semi-satellites of WHA-TV during the 1970s. The first was WPNE-TV in Green Bay in 1972. This was followed by WHWC-TV in Menomonie and WHLA-TV in La Crosse in 1973; WHRM-TV in Wausau in 1975 and WLEF in Park Falls in 1977, most taking call signs that originated from their co-owned radio counterparts. Originally, programming origination was split between WHA-TV and WPNE-TV. The stations adopted the on-air name of Wisconsin Public Television in 1986, and by then WHA-TV had become the sole originating station. Transmission and station identification is based out of ECB's Madison facility.

From 1960 to 2007, WHA-TV/WPT aired same-day tape-delayed coverage of some Wisconsin Badgers football and men's basketball home games, which was produced in association with UW-Madison's athletic department. However, because of exclusivity agreements with the Big Ten Network that began in September 2007, WPT was no longer able to air those particular Badgers sporting events.[1] The state network offers tape-delayed broadcasts of Badgers men's and women's hockey, women's basketball and volleyball throughout the year over the secondary Wisconsin Channel.[1]


Full-power stations[edit]

There are six full-power stations in the state network, each located in major cities throughout the state, and all are broadcast on the UHF band. On April 5, 2009, the state network ended analog service for all stations, which map via PSIP to their former analog channel location. All digital facilities and channels in the network except for WLEF were designed for pre- and post-transition use.[2]

Station City of license Channels
First air date Call letters meaning ERP
Facility ID Transmitter Coordinates
WHA-TV 1 Madison 21 (PSIP)
20 (UHF)
May 3, 1954 Taken from sister
station WHA radio
140 kW 453 m (1,486 ft) 6096 43°3′20.5″N 89°32′6.3″W / 43.055694°N 89.535083°W / 43.055694; -89.535083 (WHA-TV)
WHLA-TV La Crosse 31 (PSIP)
30 (UHF)
March 17, 1975 WHA LA Crosse 307.5 kW 344.6 m (1,131 ft) 18780 43°48′18.3″N 91°22′5.2″W / 43.805083°N 91.368111°W / 43.805083; -91.368111 (WHLA-TV)
WHRM-TV Wausau 20 (PSIP)
24 (UHF)
January 20, 1976 WHA Rib Mountain
(transmitter site)
172 kW 387 m (1,270 ft) 73036 44°55′12.0″N 89°41′28.7″W / 44.920000°N 89.691306°W / 44.920000; -89.691306 (WHRM-TV)
WHWC-TV 2 Menomonie
(Eau Claire)
28 (PSIP)
27 (UHF)
June 10, 1975 WHA West
Central Wisconsin
291 kW 350 m (1,148 ft) 18793 45°2′49.2″N 91°51′47.3″W / 45.047000°N 91.863139°W / 45.047000; -91.863139 (WHWC-TV)
WLEF-TV 3 Park Falls/Superior 36 (PSIP)
36 (UHF)
December 15, 1976 W Lee E. Franks
former WECB executive director
277 kW 244 m (801 ft) 63046 45°56′42.1″N 90°16′23.6″W / 45.945028°N 90.273222°W / 45.945028; -90.273222 (WLEF-TV)
WPNE-TV Green Bay 38 (PSIP)
42 (UHF)
September 12, 1972 W Public Broadcasting for
NorthEastern Wisconsin
300 kW 375 m (1,230 ft) 18798 44°24′34.6″N 88°0′6.7″W / 44.409611°N 88.001861°W / 44.409611; -88.001861 (WPNE)
  • 1 WHA-TV's signal is imported into the Milwaukee area via basic and digital cable systems to provide a second PBS choice for viewers alongside Milwaukee PBS's stations; the station was carried on Time Warner Cable systems until January 2009. It also serves as one of two de facto PBS member stations via cable for the Rockford, Illinois market south of Madison, sharing that market with Chicago's WTTW.
  • 2 WHWC serves the Wisconsin side of the Minneapolis – Saint Paul television market, and is carried by some cable systems in southeastern Minnesota, providing a second PBS choice to viewers in addition to Twin Cities PBS's stations.
  • 3 WLEF's analog signal was terminated on February 3, 2009, with WLEF's digital signal moving from Channel 47 to Channel 36. WLEF is carried on many cable systems in northwestern Wisconsin that are in the Duluth-Superior television market, providing a second choice to viewers in addition to WDSE.

Digital television[edit]

The state network carries three digital subchannels:[3]

Digital channels[edit]

(## = local channel)
Programming service Video Aspect Programming description[4][5][6][7][8][9]
##.1 WPT Unworded Logo.png WPT-HD 720p 16:9 The network's traditional schedule; downcoverted to a 4:3 analog signal for non-HD cable and satellite viewers. A SAP channel with Descriptive Video Service or alternate language audio is also provided.
##.2 WI Channel Logo.png Wisconsin Channel
Features WPT's and MPTV's programming about state issues and state history, university lectures, new local programs and performances from Wisconsin arts groups, along with alternate scheduling of lifestyle and drama programming.
Also streams online.
##.3 Createtv.png WPT Create
480i Airs the full schedule of Create.
##.4 PBS Kids Logo.svg PBS Kids
Carries the national 24-hour PBS Kids Channel; subchannel launched on January 16, 2017.[10]
  • The programming schedule of all three channels over-the-air depends on the main WPT schedule; before October 2014, on late nights without overnight instructional programming, WPT went off the air at 1 a.m. and signed back on at 6 a.m. However, after a January 2010 transmitter problem took down WPNE and commercial station WBAY-TV in Green Bay during an off the air period for two weeks, WPT switched from turning off their transmitters to mainly airing a network station identification card with an outline map of the network's service in the state during off-the-air hours.
    • Beginning in October 2014, WPT began 24-hour service using the late night national PBS feed or WPT programming to fill the overnight hours, and discontinued most instructional programming (which has moved to the web) outside of one overnight hour of UW-Madison/Wisconsin Public Radio programming under the title University Place.
  • A previous locally-programmed PBS Kids 24/7 service aired on WPT's .2 subchannel until 2007, when PBS discontinued the service due to their interest in Sprout until 2013; subsequently the Wisconsin Channel launched in its place, along with a modified children's programming schedule across all of WPT's services.
  • Since converting all their operations to digital in April 2009, WPT has broadcast their programming in the 720p high definition format, reduced from PBS's master 1080i resolution.

Network translator stations[edit]

A translator network also serves portions of the state where over-the-air reception for a full-power station is hindered by area topography, and to fill in holes between full-power stations. All of the listed translators are owned by the WECB, and flash-cut from analog to digital in the first two weeks of November 2008, including adding the subchannel services.[11] Each translator has its virtual channel mapped via PSIP to the channel number of the closest full-power station to the translator.[12]

Call sign Location Translator

W15DJ-D Sister Bay 15 WPNE 38
W22CI-D Bloomington 22 WHLA 31
W24CL-D Grantsburg 24 WHWC 28
W45CD-D Fence 45 WLEF 36
W47CO-D River Falls 47 WHWC 28
W48DB-D Coloma 48 WHRM 20

Network programming in Milwaukee and Superior-Duluth[edit]

WPT's public affairs programming is carried by MPTV flagship WMVS in Milwaukee, including Here and Now, while WDSE (channel 8) in the Superior-Duluth market and WRPT (channel 31) in Hibbing air the shows in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. The two stations also air the state network's live teen issues program Teen Connection quarterly with WPT, along with political debates and other important events originating from the Capitol such as the State of the State address and biennial budget address produced by the state network; in turn some Milwaukee PBS programming (such as Outdoor Wisconsin) and MPTV-produced debates air on WPT, with programs such as Wisconsin Foodie in turn airing on WMVS. Some of the state network's tape-delayed sports coverage airs in Milwaukee on WMVT.

National presentations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wisconsin Public Television Sports
  2. ^ Richgels, Jeff. "WHA-TV ending analog broadcasts April 5". 77 Square. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  3. ^ "Wisconsin Public Television to Launch New Digital Broadcast Lineup". October 6, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  4. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WHA
  5. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WHLA
  6. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WHRM
  7. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WHWC
  8. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WLEF
  9. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WPNE
  10. ^ "PBS Kids Coming in January". PBS Kids. 2017-01-08. Event occurs at 21:07. WPNE. 
  11. ^ "Translators Conversion Schedule". Wisconsin Public Television. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  12. ^ "Antennas and Reception". Wisconsin Public Television. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 

External links[edit]