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WPSU logo psublue.png
Clearfield/State College/
Johnstown/Altoona, Pennsylvania
United States
Channels Digital: 15 (UHF)
Virtual: 3 (PSIP)
Subchannels 3.1 PBS
3.2 Create
3.3 World
3.4 PBS Kids
Affiliations PBS (1970–present)
Owner The Pennsylvania State University
First air date March 1, 1965; 52 years ago (1965-03-01)
Call letters' meaning Pennsylvania
Former callsigns WPSX-TV (1965–2005)
Former channel number(s) 3 (VHF analog, 1965–2009)
Former affiliations NET (1965–1970)
Transmitter power 810 kW
Height 412.8 m
Facility ID 66219
Transmitter coordinates 41°7′20″N 78°26′29″W / 41.12222°N 78.44139°W / 41.12222; -78.44139
Licensing authority FCC
Public license information: Profile
Website www.wpsu.org

WPSU-TV is the PBS member public television station for the Allegheny area of Pennsylvania that is licensed to Clearfield. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on UHF channel 15 from its transmitter located seven miles north of Clearfield on McGeorge Road in Lawrence Township. Licensed to the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees, as a part of Penn State Public Media, WPSU's production and broadcast facility is located in Innovation Park on Penn State's State College campus. It reaches some 500,000 households in west-central and central Pennsylvania and southern New York, as well as a few households in western Pennsylvania. In many of the more rural portions of this area, viewers need cable television in order to get any signal other than WPSU-TV. The station's signal is very strong; it is easily viewable over-the-air as far away as Warren (where WPSU is carried on local cable systems instead of Erie's WQLN, despite the Warren being a part of the Erie market), Williamsport and Bradford. The station broadcasts PBS, American Public Television and independent productions, as well as original local programming, such as "Conversations from Penn State," "Conversations LIVE," "After Abbey," "Our Town," musical performances and political debates.

WPSU-FM is PSU's NPR and classical music radio station. Additionally, WKPS FM "The Lion 90.7FM" is Penn State's student radio station.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed.[1]

Channel PSIP Short Name Video Aspect Programming[2]
3.1 WPSU-HD 1080i 16:9 Main WPSU-TV programming / PBS
3.2 WPSU-CR 480i 4:3 Create
3.3 WPSU-WL World
3.4 WPSU-KD PBS Kids

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

WPSU-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television stations in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 15.[3] Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3.


Penn State has a long history of utilizing new media to extend access to education. It was the first American institution of higher education to offer agricultural correspondence courses in 1892. When radio’s popularity was taking hold in the 1920s, the institution tried broadcasting courses over the radio, and was the first university in the country to experiment with closed circuit television delivery in the 1940s. It was Penn State that hosted the conference on April 20, 1952 at the Nittany Lion Inn where the federal government announced its decision to set aside bandwidth to support non-commercial educational television stations. This conference led to the creation of national educational television broadcasting, and later to creation of the national Public Broadcasting Service.

A decade later, Congress and President Kennedy passed the Educational Facilities Act on May 1, 1962 that provided federal funding for the construction of educational television stations. Penn State was granted a transmitter construction permit in September 1964 and became the first educational TV station in Pennsylvania to be licensed to a university and the 101st educational television station in the United States.

Construction began on the tower and transmitter site on Penfield Mountain, seven miles north of Clearfield. The 539-foot tower was built on Rattlesnake Mountain to comply with the FCC “legal triangle” that required 170 miles to separate co-channels. As construction was not yet completed on the Wagner Annex studio, video playback machines, film and slide chains, and audio tape equipment were installed at the transmitter site in conjunction with a “mobile recording unit.”

The “X’ in the original WPSX-TV call letters conveyed that the station was an “X”-tension of Penn State. “The establishment of the station,” said Dr. Eric Walker, then-president of the university, “will enable Penn State to expand its educational services.”

WPSX-TV was led by Marlow Froke, director of the Division of Broadcasting at Penn State, as a unit of Continuing Education. On March 1, 1965, under his leadership in cooperation with the newly-formed Allegheny Educational Broadcast Council (AEBC) advisory board, WPSX-TV broadcast to 124 elementary and secondary schools across Pennsylvania to supplement the curriculum and provide in-service training for teachers. The first day’s lineup included “Saludos Amigos,” “Primary Concepts in Math,” “Focus on Fitness,” and 12 other programs that aired during the 10 a.m.-3 p.m. schedule. Froke, a former journalism instructor and radio-television newsman, said in an Altoona Mirror 1965 interview, “Television can combine all the channels of communication — site, sound, and motion — to give the greatest impact on the student.” Froke devoted the rest of his career to leading educational television efforts and retired from WPSU-TV at Penn State in 1992.

The AEBC, which also oversaw children’s educational programming for commercial stations WFBG-TV Altoona and WJAC-TV Johnstown, consisted of school district, business, and industry leaders from across the coverage area. During the first WPSX-TV broadcast school year, the classroom TV service reached approximately 250,000 students in 22 counties.

Evening programs of cultural, public affairs, and adult education were added on June 7, 1965 as a Monday through Friday, 7-11 p.m. schedule. Saturday and Sunday programming was not added until nearly two years later.

Once the microwave link which carried the broadcast signal to Wagner was completed, WPSX-TV began moving its broadcast and studio operations to its new facility. On December 10, 1965, engineering, production, and programming staff were all under one roof for the first time at the Wagner studios. It remained there until a new digital broadcast facility was dedicated on September 8, 2005 as the Outreach Building in Innovation Park.

WPSX-TV extensively drew upon Penn State’s faculty and staff to develop original programming for the new evening lineup. Art History 10, hosted by assistant professor of art history Carl Barnes, was the first University credit course to be produced for broadcast in fall 1965. Art History 10 consisted of 54 programs covering painting, architecture, and sculpture. Public Affairs programs covered national, state and University issues. In 1969, PJ O’Connell produced “The Year Behind, the Year Ahead,” reporting on the events that led to the student sit-in protest on Old Main Lawn.

O’Connell and co-producer Kimberlie Kranich went on the create the “Rural American Documentary Project,” (later renamed “Pennsylvania Parade”) with more than 150 titles that captured the life, joys, and struggles of rural Pennsylvanians, including “Notes on an Appalachia County: Visiting with Darlene,” “Notes on an American Business,” and “Profiles of Rural Religion: Go and I'll be with you.”

In the midst of this growth, the public television movement gained traction, which signified the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1967 and two years later PBS, to manage the programming of the new public television national interconnections.

Later in the 1970s the station joined a statewide community service project, broadcasting programs such as “Small Town Repair Kit” and “FoodSense,” which focused on community issues and organizing community meetings throughout the viewing area. Shows such as “Investigative Science for Elementary Education” were developed with the College of Education for children in grades 1-3. A popular series “What’s in the News” that went national was a weekly series that helped students understand current events.

The shift of PBS stations to satellite communication brought several innovations to WPSX-TV. In 1978, WPSX-TV joined the Appalachian Educational Satellite Project (AESP) that delivered teacher education courses, nursing courses, and other educational resources to the otherwise isolated communities in the Appalachian chain. WPSX-TV set up its first nation satellite conference from Penn State in 1980 for the faculty in Nuclear Engineering which extended access to education for adult, part-time learners. WPSX-TV and a group of cable operators also helped set up PENNARAMA, a 24-hour channel that offered credit courses and other educational programs.

Meanwhile, the radio channel WDFM also underwent a change and was renamed WPSU-FM in August 1984. It broadcast student programming, classical music and news and, in 1986, started to air NPR programs such as “All things Considered” (June 1986) and the “Morning Edition” (fall 1987). Later in 1994, WPSU-FM joined WPSX-TV to become Penn State Public Broadcasting. WPSX-TV began 24-hour broadcast schedules in 1998.

With the advent of digital television broadcasting, WPSX-TV became one of the leading innovators of distributed transmission of digital television signals. In 2003, experiments conducted by WPSX-TV help develop FCC standards for implementation of the distributed transmission systems in broadcasting. On the broadcasting front, WPSX Digital Channel 15 was set up to broadcast PBS digital programming exclusively.

It was in the summer of 2004 that WPSX-TV changed call letters and was renamed to its current form: WPSU-TV. The following summer, both WPSU-TV and WPSU-FM began broadcasting from their new facilities at the Outreach Building in Innovation Park, State College.

Part of the national PBS and NPR public broadcasting network, WPSU is a daily reminder of the University’s interest in and impact on quality of life and the pursuit of education across all age groups from diverse backgrounds. By uniting the power of storytelling with the combined reach of WPSU-TV, WPSU-FM, online educational sites, and internationally distributed public service media initiatives, public media extends the resources of Penn State to communities — whether in local neighborhoods or across the world — to share learning and diverse perspectives and stimulate conversation. WPSU-TV operates 4 digital channels. WPSU 3.1 is the main channel airing original, PBS, and other programming; WPSU 3.2 Create provides a mix of arts and crafts and cooking programs; WPSU 3.3 World features public affairs, science, and general interest programming, and WPSU 3.4 Kids features children's programming. Likewise, WPSU-FM has its main channel and three sub-channels on HD FM.

List of WPSU-TV's original programs[edit]



  • Dirt Track Memories
  • Making The Blue Band
  • Grange Fair: An American Tradition
  • Houses of Worship
  • Huddle Up Nittany Lion Fans
  • Legendary Lighthouses (1998) Driftwood Productions PBS
  • A Look at Autism
  • Our Town: The Kids’ Cut
  • Penn State: Access Granted
  • The Pennsylvania Game
  • Pennsylvania Inside Out
  • Raise the Song: The History of Penn State
  • Small Ball: A Little League Story
  • Surviving The Housing Crisis
  • To the Best of My Knowledge
  • What's in the News (1965?-2004)[4]
  • The WPSU-TV Alphabet Cooking Show
  • Center Court with Rene Portland
  • Outdoor Pennsylvania
  • Fred Waring's U.S. Chorus
  • Children and Autism: Time is Brain
  • Great Teachers - Making a Difference
  • Wednesday Quarterbacks/ Joe Paterno’s TV Quarterbacks (1965-?)
  • PA Energy
  • Scholastic Scrimmage (Until 2009)
  • Swift: Eyes Through Time
  • Tracks Across the Sky
  • What Matters
  • Your Health

Distributed transmission[edit]

WPSU-TV is one of the leading innovators of distributed transmission of digital television signals. They have been heavily involved with testing of new ways to distribute these signals to "difficult" reception areas and received an experimental permit from the FCC in 2003. Initial tests demonstrated that while a large UHF 15 transmitter at the location of WPSU's original low-VHF broadcast tower would encounter localised problems with terrain shielding which interfere with UHF reception in State College (and relocation of the main transmitter would have interfered with the station's ability to serve the other two communities), addition of a small (50 kW) precisely-synchronised digital TV transmitter operating in State College itself on the same frequency as the main UHF 15 signal could provide a viable improvement to digital reception.[5]

This work was to serve as the basis for a pair of ATSC standards issued in 2004 to provide design guidance for the implementation of distributed transmission systems:

  • A/110A, "Synchronization Standard for Distributed Transmission, Revision A"
  • A/111, "Design of Synchronized Multiple Transmitter Networks" [6]

These standards were later employed by other broadcasters, such as New York City's Metropolitan Television Alliance, as a starting point from which to conduct tests in 2007. This testing will be crucial to other stations throughout the country, as well as the FCC for guidelines pertaining to this type of broadcasting.


  1. ^ An article discussing WPSU's (WPSX at the time) future transition to Digital TV, as well as a concise history of innovation by the station: http://www.outreach.psu.edu/news/magazine/vol_4.1/conversion.html
  2. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WPSU
  3. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Round" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  4. ^ An article highlighting the qualities of the show: http://www.outreach.psu.edu/news/magazine/vol_2.1/wpsx.html
  5. ^ WPSX-TV set to begin experimental DTX transmission, May 15, 2003 12:00 PM
  6. ^ ATSC distributed transmission, Broadcast Engineering, Feb 2, 2007

External links[edit]