|Erie, Pennsylvania/London, Ontario
|Channels||Digital: 50 (UHF)
27 (UHF) (CP)
|Owner||Public Broadcasting of Northwest Pennsylvania, Inc.|
|First air date||August 13, 1967|
|Call letters' meaning||We Question and LearN|
|Former channel number(s)||54 (UHF analog, 1967–2008)|
|Former affiliations||NET (1967–1970)|
|Transmitter power||300 kW|
WQLN is the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member Public television station in Erie, Pennsylvania. It is owned by Public Broadcasting of Northwest Pennsylvania and broadcasts on digital channel 50 (which remaps to former analog channel 54 via PSIP. Its transmitter and studio facilities are located south of the city of Erie, just slightly northeast of WJET-TV/WFXP's shared studios off Peach Street.
In addition to its local viewership in Northwestern Pennsylvania and portions of nearby Ohio and New York State, WQLN is also seen in the London, Ontario area on Rogers Cable channel 8, and on other cable systems in the area.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming |
|54.1||1080i||16:9||WQLN-DT||Main WQLN programming / PBS|
Groundwork for an educational television station in northwest Pennsylvania was laid in 1953 with the founding of Educational Television of Erie. Its initial effort to sign on a station was unsuccessful, but the group eventually reserved channel 54 for noncommercial use. The group, which was renamed Educational Television of Northwest Pennsylvania in 1964, pressed on until finally winning a construction permit on December 6, 1966. The group initially chose the call letters WLRN (for "LeaRNing"), but those letters were already being used by a radio station in Miami, Florida. They then went with their next choice, WQLN ("We Question and Learn"). On August 13, 1967; WQLN finally went on the air. WQLN-FM signed on in 1973.
WQLN is the second-smallest PBS member in Pennsylvania. Its coverage area is limited due to Erie being sandwiched between Pittsburgh to the south, Youngstown to the west and Buffalo to the north, along with Cleveland's WVIZ also being accessible in parts of the market. As a result, the station has struggled financially for most of its history. As described below, like most PBS member stations along the US-Canada border, it also depends heavily on viewership and donations from Canadian audiences; in WQLN's case, that extended audience is across Lake Erie in the London, Ontario area. At various times in the life of the station, PBS mainstays such as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Nova, and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour were not seen on WQLN.
The station's transmitter was knocked off-air early September 15, 2008 after its antenna and transmission line were damaged by Hurricane Ike. There was also additional damage (possibly from a prior lightning strike) to the 680-foot transmission line. The station later returned using a temporary digital antenna, making WQLN the first Erie station to become fully digital. With the impending end of analog broadcasting only four months away, the station opted not to rebuild its analog facility and broadcast exclusively in digital.
Rogers Cable carries WQLN as the PBS station on some of its systems in Southwestern Ontario, including London, which has almost three times the population of WQLN's American coverage area. As a result of its cable carriage, a major portion of WQLN's financial contributions have come from viewers in Canada. For decades, the station has identified as "Erie/London" to acknowledge its Canadian viewership.
However, in July 2009, Rogers announced that it would be replacing both WQLN and Watertown, New York's WPBS-DT (carried in Ottawa) on its cable systems with Detroit's WTVS due to concerns over signal quality, as a result of the stations not having fiber optic signals available to Rogers. The plan by Rogers was faced with criticism from WQLN's general manager Dwight Miller, who stated that WQLN would not be able to stay on the air without the support of its Canadian viewers. Miller claimed that in recent years, the bulk of WQLN's fundraising revenue came from Canada. The threat of losing its Canadian cable viewership came as an additional unwelcome blow for WQLN which, like other PBS members in Pennsylvania, lost all state funding as of 2009. WQLN would face a loss of about $800,000 of state funding.
- Scott Fybush (2008-10-13). "NorthEast Radio Watch". Retrieved 2008-10-13.
- WQLN on air again, Jim Carroll, Erie Times-News, October 11, 2008
- London Free Press: "Loss of London viewers could sink Erie station", 22 July 2009.
- Erie Times-News: "WQLN to stay on in London: State budget leaves uncertain future", 30 July 2009.
- London Free Press: "Rogers retains PBS affiliate WQLN", 31 July 2009.