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WPBS: Watertown, New York
WNPI: Norwood, New York
United States, Canada
Branding WPBS
Slogan "The two-nation station" or "Your two-nation station"
Channels Digital:
WPBS: 41 (UHF)
WNPI: 23 (UHF)
Subchannels (see article)
Affiliations PBS
Owner St. Lawrence Valley Educational Television Council, Inc.
First air date WPBS: August 1971[1]
WNPI: 1971[2]
Call letters' meaning WPBS:
Former callsigns WPBS:
WNPE-TV (1971–1998)
WNPI: none
Former channel number(s) WPBS:
16 (UHF analog, August 1971 - April 12, 2009)
18 (UHF analog, August 1971 – April 12, 2009)
Transmitter power WPBS: 40 kW
WNPI: 40 kW
Height WPBS: 370 m
WNPI: 241.6 m
Facility ID WPBS: 62136
WNPI: 62137
Transmitter coordinates WPBS:
43°51′46″N 75°43′39″W / 43.86278°N 75.72750°W / 43.86278; -75.72750
44°29′29″N 74°51′27″W / 44.49139°N 74.85750°W / 44.49139; -74.85750 (WNPI-DT)
Website www.wpbstv.org

WPBS-DT is the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member station serving the North Country of New York state, licensed to Watertown. The station operates a full-time satellite, WNPI-DT, licensed to Norwood. The station also has significant viewership in much of eastern Ontario, Canada, including Ottawa and Kingston. Like San Diego, California's KPBS, WPBS-TV is a border station: in this case, serving viewers in both the US and Canada.


The St. Lawrence Valley Educational Television Council, which was organized in 1958, originally produced educational television programming to be carried by local CBS affiliate WWNY-TV. In 1971, it established an independent PBS station, WNPE-TV, using WWNY's original studios on Champion Hill as the commercial station had already relocated to a larger facility in Watertown. Full-time satellite WNPI signed on a few months later. Outgrowing the Champion Hill location itself, WNPE moved to a new building in Watertown in 1978.

Because of its large Canadian viewership, WNPE was one of the most successful PBS stations in America, with fundraising totals often exceeding those of stations in much larger markets.

For a minor sum, the rights to use the WPBS call letters were purchased from a small radio station in Conyers, Georgia in the late 1990s, and the callsign change took effect on September 1, 1998. Despite the calls, which mimic the callsign schemes used by stations owned by ABC, NBC and CBS in New York City and Los Angeles, it is not an owned-and-operated station, as PBS therefore cannot own or operate any of its member stations or regional member networks due to the network's local and non-profit nature; the WPBS callsign reflects the station's affiliation and programming, but not any special status within the PBS network.

Despite its strong viewership in Canada, Rogers Cable, the main cable provider in Ottawa, announced in July 2009 that it would replace WPBS on its systems with Detroit's WTVS by mid-August to provide a higher-quality PBS feed, as WTVS could be fed via fiber optic cable rather than from over-the-air signals.[3] Shortly after receiving this news, a Facebook campaign called 'Save WPBS in Ottawa' (later renamed 'Ottawa Loves WPBS') urging Rogers to reconsider its decision to pull the station was launched, attracting hundreds of supporters, as well as local Ottawa politicians. On July 30, 2009, it was announced that WPBS would offer a fiber-optic feed of the station for Rogers transmitted from Buffalo, New York.[4][5][6]

Erie, Pennsylvania's WQLN, which serves viewers in the London, Ontario area through Rogers, was also threatened with removal from the Rogers system;[7] as with WPBS, WQLN offered a fiber connection with Rogers.[8]

Coverage area

WPBS-TV can be seen by a total of 2.2 million viewers.[9] This is despite the fact it is the smallest PBS member in New York State; its primary audience is a mostly rural area of only 252,000 people. However, the signal from its two towers reaches far enough to serve the Ottawa Valley region via cable. This market, with over 1.5 million people (almost six times the population of WPBS' American viewing area), is the fourth-largest in Canada. Much of WPBS's viewer support has also come from Canadian viewers, as 70% of donations during recent pledge drives came from viewers in Ottawa.[3]

WPBS's transmitter is located in Copenhagen, while WNPI's is located near Potsdam (in Colton off Route 56). Both the U.S. and Canadian national anthems were played on station sign-on and sign-off.

Despite its distinctive call letters, WPBS-TV is not a network flagship station (nor is similarly-named KPBS in San Diego). Due to the local and non-profit nature of the Public Broadcasting Service, WPBS-TV belongs not to any network owned-and-operated station group but to the local community which it serves. In major US commercial networks, the networks own the largest-market stations. In PBS, it is individual member stations who collectively own the network; therefore, PBS cannot have any network owned-and-operated stations.

Digital programming

Channel Video Aspect PSIP short name Programming
1080i 16:9 WPBS-DT
Main programming / PBS
480i 4:3 WPBS-DT2
FNX (5AM-5PM) / World (5PM-5AM)
PBS Kids

The four digital subchannels are identical for both WPBS-DT and WNPI-DT.

The station had requested an increase in power from 40 kW to 60 kW for each digital transmitter. While this request had not been addressed by the US Federal Communications Commission in time for WPBS/WNPI's April 12, 2009 analogue shutoff date, which was sooner than the June 12, 2009 date for American analogue stations to end, a construction permit was issued later that year for the increased-power digital facilities.

WPBS-TV's former analogue channel number (UHF 16) is currently in use by WXXI-TV in Rochester. WNPI-TV's former analogue channel number (UHF 18) and antenna location has been reassigned to WWNY-CD, a Massena rebroadcaster of Fox affiliate WNYF-CD.


WPBS produces a variety of programming for both local and national distribution. For many outside New York and the surrounding region, WPBS is synonymous with programming ranging from Rod and Reel and Streamside (distributed to PBS member stations nationally from 1985–2006).[10] to Classical Stretch (distributed nationally since 1999 by APT).[11] They also carry other nationally distributed programs from PBS and American Public Television.

WPBS-produced TV series

  • Energy Efficiency: Enhancing Home Performance
  • Bill Saiff's Rod & Reel (1985–2001, nationally distributed by PBS)
  • Cabin Country
  • Camp Willie
  • Discovering Pets
  • The Gardener (2001, a thirteen-part series).[12][13]
  • Journeys Of An Artist (2006, national) a thirteen-episode series combining art and travel.[14]
  • Streamside with Don Meissner[15]

National programming

WPBS-originated programming distributed to public television stations nationally by American Public Television[16] includes:

  • Artist's World, The
  • Artist's World Sketches
  • CD Highway
  • Classical Stretch[17][18] (1999–2005)
  • Cottage Country
  • Flyfishing Destinations
  • From A Country Garden[19][20]
  • Rod & Reel Streamside (2001–2006)[21]
  • Streamside

WPBS-originated programming distributed to public television stations by the National Educational Telecommunications Association[22] includes:

WPBS local and regional television series

  • Jefferson's Table, local wines, history and cuisine.
  • Whiz Quiz, a quizbowl-style competition.
    • Whiz Quiz Canada, Canadian version of Whiz Quiz.
  • WPBS-LIVE!, a live call-in show presenting topics of local interest to both nations.


  1. ^ The Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says August 5, while the Television and Cable Factbook says August 9.
  2. ^ The Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says August 30, while the Television and Cable Factbook says September 5.
  3. ^ a b "WPBS of New York to disappear from Ottawa TV". CBC News. July 16, 2009. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  4. ^ "WPBS to stay on in Ottawa". Watertown Daily Times. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
  5. ^ [1] Archived August 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Ottawa Citizen: "PBS Watertown wins reprieve from Rogers", 7/30/2009.
  7. ^ London Free Press: "Loss of London viewers could sink Erie station", 7/22/2009.
  8. ^ London Free Press: "Rogers retains PBS affiliate WQLN", 7/31/2009.
  9. ^ About PBS: List of on-air auctions by state and market size
  10. ^ Public TV station evolves from using donated air time to entering the digital age, Chris Brock, Watertown NY Times, June 7, 2008
  11. ^ "All the right moves: Classical-Stretch class builds flexibility and self-confidence, Susan Schwartz, Montréal Gazette, April 10 2000". Archived from the original on 2008-01-18. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  12. ^ Bio of Ed Lawrence, The Gardner
  13. ^ "National Capital Commission, Ottawa-Hull, Canada". Archived from the original on 2004-08-28. Retrieved 2004-11-21.
  14. ^ [2] Archived August 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Fishing with Don Meissner, host of Streamside
  16. ^ "APT Programs". Archived from the original on 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
  17. ^ [3] Archived October 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Stretching for the next level Archived 2011-05-24 at the Wayback Machine, LYNN MOORE, The Gazette (Montréal), January 05, 2008
  19. ^ Gardening Grief and Glory: Ed Lawrence Answers Your Gardening Questions, ISBN 978-0-9681210-1-6
  20. ^ [4] Archived January 18, 2002, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ [5] Archived March 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "NETA programming". Archived from the original on 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
  23. ^ "Fishing Behind The Lines". www.wpbstv.org. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  24. ^ [6][dead link]
  25. ^ [7] Archived April 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "www.WPBSTV.org | Painting With Wilson Bickford". www.wpbstv.org. Retrieved 2016-08-11.

External links

  • Query the FCC's TV station database for WPBS
  • Query the FCC's TV station database for WNPI
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