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Blue Ridge PBS logo (2019).png
CityRoanoke, Virginia
BrandingBlue Ridge PBS
Affiliations15.1: PBS
15.2: World
15.3: PBS Kids
15.4: Create
15.5: Echo
OwnerBlue Ridge Public Television, Inc.
First air date
August 1, 1967 (54 years ago) (1967-08-01)
Former channel number(s)
15 (UHF, 1967–2009)
NET (1967–1970)
Call sign meaning
Blue Ridge Educational Television Association[1]
Technical information
Licensing authority
Facility ID5981
ERP22 kW (STA)
HAAT614.3 m (2,015 ft)
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, virtual channel 15 (VHF digital channel 3), is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station licensed to Roanoke, Virginia, United States and also serving Lynchburg. The station is owned by Blue Ridge Public Television, Inc. WBRA-TV's studios are located on McNeil Drive in southwest Roanoke, and its transmitter is located on Poor Mountain in unincorporated southwestern Roanoke County.


Logo used until November 4, 2019.

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.

Former relays[edit]

WBRA established two satellite transmitters—WSBN-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; it was 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.[2] Both stations returned to the air almost a year later, on March 29, 2014. Later in the year, Blue Ridge PBS created a separate feed of programming branded "Southwest Virginia Public TV" for broadcast on the main feeds of WSBN-TV and WMSY-TV as well as local cable; the channel also airs on WBRA-TV's subchannel 15.2.[3]

WSBN and WMSY went off the air again March 27, 2017, after the microwave feed to both stations from Roanoke failed. Around the same time, WSBN's transmitter was destroyed by a lightning strike.[4][5] On April 13, 2017, the FCC announced that Blue Ridge PBS had sold the two stations' channel allocations in the 2016–17 spectrum reallocation auction. Blue Ridge Public Television received $5,243,122 for WMSY and $597,793 for WSBN, and elected to take both permanently off-the-air.[6] Blue Ridge Public Television formally returned the WMSY and WSBN licenses to the FCC on November 3, 2017.

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; 51 years ago (1971-03-30) March 27, 2017; 5 years ago (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; 40 years ago (1981-08-01) March 27, 2017; 5 years ago (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.

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect Short name Programming[7]
15.1 1080i 16:9 WBRA-HD Main WBRA-TV programming / PBS
15.2 480i SWVAPTV Regional TV "SWVAPTV" (12 p.m.–12 a.m. )/World (12 a.m.–12 p.m.)
15.3 BRKids PBS Kids
15.4 Create Create
15.5 4:3 ECHO Echo

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

Blue Ridge PBS' stations shut down their analog signals 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 channel allocations post-transition are as follows:[8]

  • WBRA-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 15; the station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 3. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog 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. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog 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. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 52, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.


  1. ^ "History of Blue Ridge PBS". wbra.org.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Berrier Jr., Ralph (October 26, 2014). "Media notes: Blue Ridge PBS launches new channel". Roanoke Times.
  4. ^ "DWSBN-TV Facility Data". FCCData.
  5. ^ "DWMSY-TV Facility Data". FCCData.
  6. ^ "FCC Broadcast Television Spectrum Incentive Auction" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. April 13, 2017. p. 1. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
  7. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for WBRA
  8. ^ "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-08-29. Retrieved 2012-03-24.

External links[edit]