Local News

UNC-TV Prepares for High Definition Conversion

Posted March 29, 1999

— All U.S. television stations must start broadcasting digital signals by May 1, 2003. Some commercial stations, such asWRAL-HD, our sister High Definition station, are already on the air.

However, public TV stations, like North Carolina'sUNC-TV, need a lot of money to make the change. Tom Howe heads the statewide public television network. His challenge: converting the system to digital broadcasting by theFCCdeadline.

"Every public station, every commercial station, the whole industry has to make this conversion," Howe said. "It's not a matter of choice."

The FCC has ordered stations to make the leap, but it will cost a great deal of money. To convert the 11-station UNC-TV system, North Carolina lawmakers are being asked for almost $63 million dollars over the next four years. Daytime educational programming will be digital, but prime time PBS programs will have added dimension.

"What will change is the beauty and the appeal of the programs that we're doing now, which is sort of going to bring together television and the movie screen," Howe said.

Some of that programming is being produced now by WETA, the public station in the nation's capitol. The life and work of artist Vincent Van Gogh is the latest project in High Definition TV.

"We're beginning to really show the incredible ability of High Definition television to capture a single brush stroke the way the artist left it," producer Jackson Frost said.

Frost and Howe believe digital technology will be a challenge and a benefit for public broadcasting.

"While everyone's challenged to make their case to whoever their funding sources are, it's a time of exhilaration and excitement about the future," Howe said.

"Public television, although it lacks money, does not lack innovation," Frost said.

Howe is confident the money will come and UNC-TV will enter the digital age on time.

UNC-TV is having anopen house April 5to show how it plans to use digital television. The public is invited free of charge, but you must request a ticket.


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