Oregon Public Broadcasting is one step closer to installing digital transmission equipment in rural Oregon after the State Legislature today approved $3 million in capital funding in last-minute budget bills.  

These new transmission facilities will ensure the continuation of OPB programming for more than 200,000 residents outside the major Portland metropolitan area, along with continuation of an emergency alert broadcast system that reaches throughout the state.

Under a federal government mandate OPB must turn off all full-power analog transmitters on February 17, 2009. At that time, the majority of those who rely on over-the-air broadcast television will need to either acquire a digital converter box in order to receive digital signals on analog television sets or purchase a digital television set.   

Oregonians in many parts of the state – particularly the coast, the Gorge, eastern and central Oregon – rely on an extensive network of analog translators to receive public television service. These translators operate only in the analog system, requiring significant digital upgrades in order to maintain service after February 17, 2009.

“Many of the thousands of Oregonians who live in rural areas consider OPB to be a lifeline service, bringing them news and information, educational programming for children, and providing a connection to the rest of the state. The leadership of Governor Kulongoski and members of the legislature ensures that public broadcasting service in rural Oregon will be available for years to come,” said OPB President Steve Bass.

Conversion of the network of analog translators will provide viewers in rural areas the same level of service currently enjoyed in Oregon’s more urban areas. OPB currently offers four programming services on its digital transmission network, including high-definition programs, OPB analog simulcast (scheduled to begin early July), OPB Create, and The Oregon Channel (a programming service offered in partnership with Legislative Media and the Oregon University System that provides legislative coverage and other public affairs programming).

Bass said substantial credit for this success goes to Governor Ted Kulongoski, who included funding for OPB in his recommended budget, as well as legislative leaders including Sen. Betsy Johnson; Rep. Mary Nolan, House co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee; Senate President Peter Courtney: House Speaker Jeff Merkley; and Sen. Kurt Schrader, Senate co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

Bass said appreciation also goes to hundreds of Oregonians who championed the cause by writing letters, opinion pieces and columns in support of the legislative funding.

OPB will work in partnership with Southern Oregon Public Television to convert all statewide analog television translators to digital starting this summer. The legislative funding did not include operating funds to run the translators network.  

About OPB
OPB is the state’s most far-reaching and accessible media resource, providing free access to programming for children and adults, and designed to give voice to community, connect Oregon and its neighbors and illuminate a wider world. Every week, over 1.5 million people tune into or log onto OPB’s television, radio and internet delivery services. As the hub of operations for the state’s Emergency Broadcast and Amber Alert services, OPB serves as the backbone for the distribution of critical information to broadcasters and homes throughout Oregon. OPB is one of the largest producers and presenters of national television programming through PBS, and also is a member station of NPR, Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM). For more information, visit www.opb.org.