Prairie Public Television is a state network of public television stations operated primarily by Prairie Public Broadcasting. It comprises all of the PBS member stations in the state of North Dakota.

The state network is available via flagship station KFME in Fargo and eight satellite stations covering all of North Dakota, plus portions of Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and northwesternOntario. PPT is also available on most satellite and cable television outlets.

History

In 1959, North Central Educational Television, the predecessor organization to Prairie Public, was incorporated. On January 19, 1964, KFME signed on from Fargo as North Dakota's first educational television station.

The Prairie Public name was adopted in 1974, the same year the first satellite station, KGFE in Grand Forks signed on, marking the beginning of the statewide network. A year earlier, KFME had almost shut down due to lack of funding. KFME acquired a color video tape recorder in 1967, and color cameras in 1975.

In 1977, the state legislature granted Prairie Public funding to build a statewide public television network. Earlier in the decade, it had been picked up on cable in Bismarck; western North Dakota was one of the few areas of the country still without access to PBS programming. KBME in Bismarck was established in 1979, bringing over-the-air public television to the western portion of the state for the first time. KSRE Minot followed suit in 1980 and KDSE Dickinson in 1982. Prairie Public purchased the Fargo American Life Building in 1983 and moved its studios there in 1984. In 1989 KFME and cable feeds went to a 24-hour television broadcast schedule. The Prairie Satellite Networkdistance education state network, with 70 sites, was completed in 1994. Later, KWSE in Williston signed on in 1983, and KJRE in Ellendale/Jamestown signed on in 1992.

Prairie Public became the first broadcaster in North Dakota to broadcast in high definition, with KFME-DT and KBME-DT debuting in 2002. Digital-only station KCGE-DT Crookston/Grand Forks signed on in 2003, with the rest of the Prairie Public stations broadcasting in HDTV by 2004.

The transmitter for KGFE was damaged in May 2004, due to ice buildup on the tower, which caused very large chunks of ice to fall off and go through the roof of the transmitter building. This caused water damage to the transmitter's equipment, as well as damage to the roof of the transmitter site.[2] KGFE went back on the air in February 2005 at low power, then later became a secondary station from the KCGE tower. KMDE-DT of Devils Lake signed on in 2005 to cover the western half of KGFE's viewing area, as KCGE covered the eastern half of KGFE's viewing area.

Manitoba

Prairie Public Television is carried on most cable systems in southern Manitoba, including Winnipeg. Manitoba has historically been a significant supporter of Prairie Public Television. Indeed, the network's audience there is far larger than its American one; Winnipeg alone has a population greater than the entire state of North Dakota.

Prairie Public has produced numerous local documentaries, including many about southern Manitoba, including Portage Avenue: Dreams of Castles in the Sky, Red River Divide, Assiniboine Park: A Park for all Seasons, Lake Winnipeg's Paradise Beaches, among others.

Prairie Public was first available in Manitoba in 1974, when KGFE signed on VHF channel 2 from the WDAZ TV Tower in Dahlen, its signal was easily received in the Morden-Winkler area. Prairie Public has been carried on cable in Manitoba since 1975, when KGFE was picked up by cable systems in Winnipeg and Brandon, Manitoba. In 1986, Prairie Public was nearly dropped from cable in Winnipeg.[3][4] After the crisis, Prairie Public and WDAZ set up a fixed microwave link to carry stronger signals into Winnipeg. In 1998, a signal link failure forced PPTV off cable in Brandon for several months.[5]

Not only must Prairie Public take its large Canadian audience into account in its programming, but a significant portion of its donations during fundraising drives are in Canadian dollars. The station has opened up many of its contests for Canadian residents. It is also involved in many family events in Manitoba, including the International Friendship Festival in Winnipeg, and an annual sweater drive.[6]

Canadians are well-represented in Prairie Public's leadership; two directors of Prairie Public are from Winnipeg.[7] Additionally, a Manitoban chairs the television programming advisory board.[8]

Since KGFE's analog service went off the air in 2004, Prairie Public has been available only by cable in Manitoba. In 2012, MTS brought Prairie Public's signal into northern Manitoba for the first time when its Ultimate TV service launched in Thompson and The Pas.[9][2] Coverage is not complete, however; cable systems as far south as Winkler use alternate PBS feeds. Prairie Public is also absent from the lineups of satellite providers Shaw Direct and Bell TV, making it unavailable to many rural residents and cottages.

Elsewhere in Canada, PPB is carried on cable in Kenora, Ontario, and is available over-the-air near Estevan, Saskatchewan. Prairie Public was formerly on cable throughout Saskatchewan, until 1984.[2]

Programming

Many recent programs are available on the broadcaster's YouTube Channel. The stations also carry programs from PBS, American Public Television, and other distributors, as well as from independent producers.

Local

Current programs

  • Prairie Pulse with John Harris, Friday 7:30pm CT / 6:30 MT
  • Prairie Mosaic, Thursday 9:30pm CT / 8:30 MT
  • Painting with Paulson, Saturday 3:30pm CT / 2:30 MT

Archives

Weekly regional programs

  • SPIN (1976)
  • North Dakota This Week (1980)
  • Skyline (early 1980s)
  • Prairie News Journal (1990–1997)
  • PlainsTalk (1998)
  • Prairie Pulse (2004–present)

Regional

As a member of Minnesota Public Television Association Prairie Public also broadcasts Almanac from Twin Cities Public Television in Minneapolis-St. Paul, as well as Minnesota Channel on Prairie Public's digital channels throughout North Dakota. Many shows produced locally by Prairie Public are enjoyed by the Minnesota Channel's viewers throughout Minnesota.

Stations

Full-power stations

There are nine full-power stations in the state network, in major cities throughout the state. In 2009, the state network ended analog service for all stations, and they map via PSIP to their former analog channel location.

StationCity of licenseChannelsFirst air dateSecond and
third letters of
callsign meaning
ERPHAATFacility IDTransmitter Coordinates
KFMEFargoDigital: 13 (VHF)
Virtual: 13 (PSIP)
January 19, 1964Fargo-
Moorhead
56.2 kW342 m53321
KGFEGrand ForksDigital: 15 (UHF)
Virtual: 2 (PSIP)
September 9, 1974Grand
Forks
22.6 kW186.1 m53320
KBME-TV1BismarckDigital: 22 (UHF)
Virtual: 3 (PSIP)
June 18, 1979Bismarck-
Mandan
97.3 kW392 m53324
KSREMinotDigital: 40 (UHF)
Virtual: 6 (PSIP)
January 25, 1980Souris
River
146 kW249.4 m53313
KDSEDickinsonDigital: 9 (VHF)
Virtual: 9 (PSIP)
August 4, 1982Dickinson/
Stark County
8.35 kW243.5 m53329
KWSEWillistonDigital: 11 (VHF)
Virtual: 4 (PSIP)
April 8, 1983WilliSton
84.9 kW278 m53318
KJREEllendaleDigital: 20 (UHF)
Virtual: 19 (PSIP)
May 19922James
River
72.3 kW162.5 m53315
KCGE-DTCrookston, MN
(Grand Forks)
Digital: 16 (UHF)
Virtual: 16 (PSIP)
2003Crookston/
Grand Forks
105 kW219.6 m132606
KMDEDevils LakeDigital: 25 (UHF)
Virtual: 25 (PSIP)
2006Minnewaukan-
Devils Lake
134 kW244.5 m162016

1: KBME-TV used the callsign KBME (without the -TV suffix) from its 1979 sign-on until 1998.
2: The Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook says KJRE signed on May 12, while the Television and Cable Factbook says it signed on May 11.

Digital television

Digital channels

The digital signals of PPT's stations are multiplexed:

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[2][2][2][2][2][2][2][2][20]
xx.11080i16:9PPB1Main programming / PBS
xx.2480i4:3PPB2World
xx.3480i
(1080i)
16:9PPB3Minnesota Channel
xx.4480i4:3PPB4Lifelong Learning
  • In most areas, subchannels are only available in standard definition. However, Minnesota Channel is carried in high definition by KGFE Grand Forks, as the only other subchannel is a standard definition feed of the main PPT/PBS channel. All four Prairie Public subchannels and the high definition feed of the main PPT/PBS channel are carried on KCGE in the Grand Forks area.

Analog-to-digital conversion

During 2009, in the lead-up to the analog-to-digital television transition that would ultimately occur on June 12, PPT shut down the analog transmitters of its stations on a staggered basis. Listed below are the dates each analog transmitter ceased operations as well as their post-transition channel allocations:[21]

  • KFME shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 13, 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 signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 23 to VHF channel 13.
  • KGFE shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 2, on June 12, 2009. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 56, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition, to UHF channel 15. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 2.
  • KBME-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 3, on February 17, 2009, the original date in which full-power television stations in the United States were to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which was later pushed back to June 12, 2009). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 22. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 3.
  • KSRE shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 6, on February 17, 2009. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 40. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 6.
  • KDSE shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 9, on June 12, 2009. The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 20 to VHF channel 9.
  • KWSE shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 4, on June 12, 2009. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 51. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 4.
  • KJRE shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 19, on February 17, 2009. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 20. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 19.

KCGE-DT signed on in 2003 as a digital-only station, although it also had to endure a temporary shutdown in early 2009 in final preparation for the transition.

KMDE signed on in 2006 as a digital-only station, although it also had to endure a temporary shutdown in early 2009 in final preparation for the transition.

Network translator stations

A translator network also serves areas where over-the-air reception for a regular station is hindered by area topography, distance and to fill in holes between full-power stations. Translators broadcasting in digital have their virtual channel mapped via PSIP to the channel number of the full-power station it rebroadcasts.[22][23]

Call signLocationTranslator
channel

(ATSC)
PSIP
station/channel
K17OB-DPlevna, Montana17KWSE 4
K04IH-DBaker, Montana4KDSE 9
K13PZ-DPoplar, Montana13KWSE 4
  • Formerly,
    • K02FOValley City, relaying KGFE until 1992, when KJRE 19 in Ellendale signed on.
    • K07NELisbon relayed KFME.
    • K11QDHazen relayed KSRE.

Cable and satellite

Prairie Public is carried statewide in North Dakota and in portions of northwestern Minnesota and eastern Montana. In Manitoba, Prairie Public is carried by Shaw Cable on most systems south of the Interlake (including Winnipeg), and by Westman across southwest Manitoba. MTS carries Prairie Public on their phone-line service, MTS TV. In Ontario, Shaw Cable carries Prairie Public in Kenora, Ontario.