Blue Ridge PBS is the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member station for southwestern Virginia. It serves the Roanoke-Lynchburg market from studios in Roanoke. It formerly also broadcast to the Tri-Cities, Tennessee-Virginia market.

The primary station, WBRA-TV (channel 15) in Roanoke signed on for the first time on August 1, 1967, originally affiliated with the National Educational Television (NET), before that organization was replaced by PBS in 1970.

Over the years, WBRA established two satellite transmitters — WSBN-TV (channel 47) in Norton was activated in 1971 and WMSY-TV (channel 52) in Marion began operations in 1981. WSBN brought a city-grade PBS signal to the Tri-Cities for the first time; it is carried on the Tri-Cities DirecTV and Dish Network feeds.

In the 1980s, WBRA began identifying on-air as Blue Ridge Public Television, due of its location near the Blue Ridge Mountains. On February 19, 2007, it changed its on-air name to Blue Ridge PBS, though WBRA-TV remains the official call sign.

In March 2013, Blue Ridge PBS announced that it would close both WSBN and WMSY by June 30, 2013, leaving East Tennessee PBS outlet WETP as the sole source of PBS programming in the Tri-Cities. The move came as a result of budget cuts that followed the elimination of Virginia's funding for public broadcasting stations in 2012. However, station president James Baum told The Roanoke Times that there are no plans to tear down the transmitters, leaving the possibility that WSBN and WMSY could return in the future.[2]

Stations

StationCity of licenseChannels
TV / DT
First air dateERPHAATFacility IDTransmitter Coordinates
WBRA-TVRoanoke15 (PSIP)
3 (VHF)
August 1, 19679.8 kW618 m5981
WSBN-TV1Norton47 (PSIP)
32 (UHF)
March 30, 1971 (signed off March 24, 2013)100 kW591 m5985
WMSY-TVMarion52 (PSIP)
42 (UHF)
August 1, 1981 (signed off March 24, 2013)100 kW448 m5982

Note:

  • 1. WSBN-TV used the callsign WSVN-TV from its 1971 sign-on to 1983; there is no connection between this station and the current WSVN Channel 7, A Fox affiliate in Miami, Florida.

Digital television

Digital channels

The digital signals of Blue Ridge PBS' stations are multiplexed:

ChannelVideoAspectPSIP Short NameProgramming[3][4][5]
15.11080i16:9WBRA-HDMain programming / PBS (only seen on WBRA's signal)
15.2

47.2

52.2

480i4:3SWVAPTV (on WBRA)

WMSY-SD (on WMSY and WSBN)

PBS Encore "SWVA PTV" (Only programming on WSBN and WMSY)
15.3WORLDPBS World (only seen on WBRA's signal)

Analog-to-digital conversion

Blue Ridge PBS' stations shut down their analog signals 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 channel allocations post-transition are as follows:[6]

  • WBRA-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 15; the station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 3. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 15.
  • WSBN-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 47; the station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 32. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 47.
  • WMSY-TV shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 52; the station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 42. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 52, which was among the high band UHF channels (52-69) that were removed from broadcasting use as a result of the transition.