Tag Archives: WCFE

Mountain Lake PBS off air after lightning strike

UPDATE (July 31): It’s back on. See below.

If you’re wondering why you’re tuning into PBS and getting nothing, it’s because the station is off the air.

WCFE, the PBS station based in Plattsburgh, N.Y., announced on Wednesday that its transmitter was off the air after a power transformer at its transmitter site on Lyon Mountain was struck by lightning, causing it to catch fire. (This was after a separate lightning strike Tuesday night that hit the transmitter itself.)

The end result is that the transmitter isn’t running because it doesn’t have power, and the difficult-to-access transmitter site won’t be easy to repair. (UPDATE June 28: The station says the transformers were destroyed, and it could be about three weeks until repairs are complete.)

Most cable providers get the signal from Mountain Lake PBS by simply capturing it off the air with an antenna. Canadian cable companies don’t pay over-the-air American television stations for distribution (something that some U.S. TV stations have been lobbying to change recently), so they don’t really need to have a relationship at all between them.

Videotron in Montreal actually distributes two PBS stations, both of whom are near the Quebec border: WETK, the Burlington transmitter for Vermont Public Television, is the other. But WCFE is the only one distributed in high definition. (Interestingly, the HD feed of WCFE is offered for subscribers to WETK, which means if you choose WETK à la carte but not WCFE, you can have access to WCFE in HD but not SD.)

So until this situation is resolved, or Videotron decides to substitute WETK’s HD feed for that of WCFE, Montrealers wanting to watch PBS will have to settle for doing so in standard definition.

UPDATE: The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reports that the transmitter won’t be running again for some time. But service to Videotron cable will be restored in “the next couple of days” and was back on Time Warner Cable in the U.S. on Wednesday night.

UPDATE (July 2): Videotron has put WETK HD on channel 650. We’ll see if they switch it back when WCFE is back on the air.

UPDATE (July 31): The station’s transmitter went back on the air a week ago. Videotron has switched back to using WCFE HD on channel 650.

Analog shutdown going on as scheduled next week

Despite the extension of the deadline to June 12, television broadcasters in the Burlington and Plattsburgh areas have agreed to shut down their analog transmitters at 11:59pm on Feb. 17 as scheduled.

This means that Montrealers who watch TV over the air with an external or internal antenna will no longer receive programming on these stations unless their TV is digital-ready or they have a digital converter box.

The following stations, which count Montreal as part of their markets, are among the 25% of U.S. broadcast TV stations whose analog transmitter will stop programming on Feb. 17:

  • WCAX-3 (CBS)
  • WPTZ-5 (NBC)
  • WVNY-22 (ABC)
  • WETK-33 (PBS/VPT)
  • WFFF-44 (Fox)
  • WCFE-57 (PBS/Mountain Lake)

Associated Press has a running list of the stations shutting down next week.

People who get television by analog cable, digital cable, pirated cable, direct-to-home satellite, illegally-pirated U.S. direct-to-home satellite or by Torrenting it off the Internet will not be affected by the change (except to see all those DTV shutdown reminders on the local stations).