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Watertown, New York
United States
SloganThe two-nation station or
Your two-nation station
ChannelsDigital: 41 (UHF)
(to move to 26 (UHF))
Virtual: 16 (PSIP)
Subchannels(see article)
OwnerSt. Lawrence Valley Educational TV Council, Inc.
First air dateAugust 1971 (47 years ago) (1971-08)[1]
Call letters' meaningWatertown
Former callsignsWNPE-TV (1971–1998)
WPBS-TV (1998−2009)
Former channel number(s)Analog:
16 (UHF, August 1971–April 12, 2009)
Transmitter power40 kW
972 kW (CP)
Height370 m (1,214 ft)
373 m (1,224 ft) (CP)
Facility ID62136
Transmitter coordinates43°51′46″N 75°43′38″W / 43.86278°N 75.72722°W / 43.86278; -75.72722
Licensing authorityFCC
Public license informationProfile
Norwood, New York
United States
Brandingsee WPBS-DT infobox
Slogansee WPBS-DT infobox
ChannelsDigital: 23 (UHF)
Virtual: 18 (PSIP)
Subchannels(see article)
OwnerSt. Lawrence Valley Educational Television Council, Inc.
First air date1971 (48 years ago) (1971)[2]
Call letters' meaningWatertown/
Former callsignsWNPI-TV (1971−2009)
Former channel number(s)Analog:
18 (UHF, August 1971–April 12, 2009)
Transmitter power40 kW
Height241.6 m (793 ft)
Facility ID62137
Transmitter coordinates44°29′29″N 74°51′26″W / 44.49139°N 74.85722°W / 44.49139; -74.85722 (WNPI-DT)
Licensing authorityFCC
Public license informationProfile

WPBS-DT, virtual channel 16 (UHF digital channel 41), is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station licensed to Watertown, New York, United States and serving Upstate New York's North Country. The station is owned by the St. Lawrence Valley Educational TV Council. WPBS-DT's studios are located on Arsenal Street in Watertown, and its transmitter is located on St. Lawrence County Route 194 in Denmark.

WPBS operates a full-time satellite, WNPI-DT (virtual channel 18, UHF digital channel 23), licensed to Norwood, with transmitter in South Colton. The two stations combined have significant viewership in much of eastern Ontario, Canada, including Ottawa and Kingston.


The St. Lawrence Valley Educational Television Council, which was organized in 1958, originally produced educational television programming to be carried by local CBS affiliate WWNY-TV (channel 7). In 1971, it established an independent PBS station, WNPE-TV, using WWNY's original studios on Champion Hill as the commercial station had already relocated to a larger facility in Watertown. Full-time satellite WNPI signed on a few months later. Outgrowing the Champion Hill location itself, WNPE moved to a new building in Watertown in 1978.

Because of its large Canadian viewership, WNPE was one of the most successful PBS stations, with fundraising totals often exceeding those of stations in much larger markets.

For a minor sum, the rights to use the WPBS call letters were purchased from a small radio station in Conyers, Georgia in the late 1990s, and the callsign change took effect on September 1, 1998. Despite the calls, which mimic the callsign schemes used by stations owned by ABC, NBC and CBS in New York City and Los Angeles, it is not an owned-and-operated station, as PBS therefore cannot own or operate any of its member stations or regional member networks due to the network's local and non-profit nature; the WPBS callsign reflects the station's affiliation and programming, but not any special status within the PBS network.

Despite its strong viewership in Canada, Rogers Cable, the main cable provider in Ottawa, announced in July 2009 that it would replace WPBS on its systems with Detroit's WTVS by mid-August to provide a higher-quality PBS feed, as WTVS could be fed via fiber optic cable rather than from over-the-air signals.[3] Shortly after receiving this news, a Facebook campaign called 'Save WPBS in Ottawa' (later renamed 'Ottawa Loves WPBS') urging Rogers to reconsider its decision to pull the station was launched, attracting hundreds of supporters, as well as local Ottawa politicians. On July 30, 2009, it was announced that WPBS would offer a fiber-optic feed of the station for Rogers transmitted from Buffalo, New York.[4][5][6]

Erie, Pennsylvania's WQLN, which serves viewers in the London, Ontario area through Rogers, was also threatened with removal from the Rogers system;[7] as with WPBS, WQLN offered a fiber connection with Rogers.[8]

Coverage area[edit]

WPBS-TV can be seen by a total of 2.2 million viewers.[9] This is despite the fact it is the smallest PBS member in New York State; there are only 252,000 people in its American viewing area. However, the signal from its two towers reaches far enough to serve the Ottawa Valley region via cable. This market, with over 1.5 million people–almost six times the population of WPBS' American viewing area)–is the fourth-largest in Canada. Much of WPBS's viewer support has also come from Canadian viewers, as 70% of donations during recent pledge drives came from viewers in Ottawa.[3] The station also maintains a mailing address in Gananoque, Ontario to service its Canadian donors.

WPBS' service area comprises mostly rural areas and small towns. The only major urban areas in its service area are Ottawa and Kingston.

In past years, the U.S. and Canadian national anthems were played on station sign-on and sign-off.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The stations' digital signals are multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP short name Programming
1080i 16:9 WPBS-DT
Main programming / PBS
480i 4:3 WPBS-DT2
FNX (5AM-5PM) / World (5PM-5AM)
PBS Kids

The four digital subchannels are identical for both WPBS-DT and WNPI-DT.

The station had requested an increase in power from 40 kW to 60 kW for each digital transmitter. While this request had not been addressed by the US Federal Communications Commission in time for WPBS/WNPI's April 12, 2009 analogue shutoff date, which was sooner than the June 12, 2009 date for American analogue stations to end, a construction permit was issued later that year for the increased-power digital facilities.

WPBS-TV's former analogue channel number (UHF 16) is currently in use by WXXI-TV in Rochester. WNPI-TV's former analogue channel number (UHF 18) and antenna location has been reassigned to WWNY-CD, a Massena rebroadcaster of Fox affiliate WNYF-CD.


WPBS produces a variety of programming for both local and national distribution. For many outside New York and the surrounding region, WPBS is synonymous with programming ranging from Rod and Reel and Streamside (distributed to PBS member stations nationally from 1985–2006).[10] to Classical Stretch (distributed nationally since 1999 by APT).[11] They also carry other nationally distributed programs from PBS and American Public Television.

WPBS-produced TV series[edit]

  • Energy Efficiency: Enhancing Home Performance
  • Bill Saiff's Rod & Reel (1985–2001, nationally distributed by PBS)
  • Cabin Country
  • Camp Willie
  • Discovering Pets
  • The Gardener (2001, a thirteen-part series).[12][13]
  • Journeys Of An Artist (2006, national) a thirteen-episode series combining art and travel.[14]
  • Streamside with Don Meissner[15]

National programming[edit]

WPBS-originated programming distributed to public television stations nationally by American Public Television[16] includes:

  • Artist's World, The
  • Artist's World Sketches
  • CD Highway
  • Classical Stretch[17][18] (1999–2005)
  • Cottage Country
  • Flyfishing Destinations
  • From A Country Garden[19][20]
  • Rod & Reel Streamside (2001–2006)[21]
  • Streamside

WPBS-originated programming distributed to public television stations by the National Educational Telecommunications Association[22] includes:

WPBS local and regional television series[edit]

  • Jefferson's Table, local wines, history and cuisine.
  • Whiz Quiz, a quizbowl-style competition.
    • Whiz Quiz Canada, Canadian version of Whiz Quiz.
  • WPBS-LIVE!, a live call-in show presenting topics of local interest to both nations.


  1. ^ The Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says August 5, while the Television and Cable Factbook says August 9.
  2. ^ The Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says August 30, while the Television and Cable Factbook says September 5.
  3. ^ a b "WPBS of New York to disappear from Ottawa TV". CBC News. July 16, 2009. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  4. ^ "WPBS to stay on in Ottawa". Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
  5. ^ [1] Archived August 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Ottawa Citizen: "PBS Watertown wins reprieve from Rogers", 7/30/2009.
  7. ^ London Free Press: "Loss of London viewers could sink Erie station", 7/22/2009.
  8. ^ London Free Press: "Rogers retains PBS affiliate WQLN", 7/31/2009.
  9. ^ About PBS: List of on-air auctions by state and market size
  10. ^ Public TV station evolves from using donated air time to entering the digital age, Chris Brock, Watertown NY Times, June 7, 2008
  11. ^ "All the right moves: Classical-Stretch class builds flexibility and self-confidence, Susan Schwartz, Montréal Gazette, April 10 2000". Archived from the original on 2008-01-18. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  12. ^ Bio of Ed Lawrence, The Gardner
  13. ^ "National Capital Commission, Ottawa-Hull, Canada". Archived from the original on 2004-08-28. Retrieved 2004-11-21.
  14. ^ [2] Archived August 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Fishing with Don Meissner, host of Streamside
  16. ^ "APT Programs". Archived from the original on 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
  17. ^ [3] Archived October 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Stretching for the next level Archived 2011-05-24 at the Wayback Machine, LYNN MOORE, The Gazette (Montréal), January 05, 2008
  19. ^ Gardening Grief and Glory: Ed Lawrence Answers Your Gardening Questions, ISBN 978-0-9681210-1-6
  20. ^ [4] Archived January 18, 2002, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ [5] Archived March 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "NETA programming". Archived from the original on 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
  23. ^ "Fishing Behind The Lines". www.wpbstv.org. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  24. ^ [6][dead link]
  25. ^ [7] Archived April 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "www.WPBSTV.org | Painting With Wilson Bickford". www.wpbstv.org. Retrieved 2016-08-11.

External links[edit]