WIPB, virtual channel 49 (UHF digital channel 23), is a PBS member television station located in Muncie, Indiana, United States. The station is owned by Ball State University, and is a sister station to NPR member radio station WBST (92.1 FM). WIPB maintains studio facilities located at the E.F. Ball Communication Building on the university's campus on University Avenue in northwestern Muncie, and its transmitter is located on County Road 50 in rural southern Delaware County (south of Cowan). On cable, WIPB is available in standard definition on Comcast Xfinity channel 2 in Muncie and channel 19 in Indianapolis, and in high definition on Xfinity digital channel 1023 in both cities.
UHF channel 49 in Central Indiana
The UHF channel 49 allocation in Central Indiana was originally occupied by WLBC-TV, which signed on the air on June 14, 1953, as a primary CBS affiliate with secondary affiliations with ABC and NBC. The station was founded by Don Burton, owner of Muncie radio station WLBC (1340 AM, now WXFN). During the late 1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. WLBC-TV dropped CBS programming in the early 1960s, becoming a primary NBC and secondary ABC affiliate. Burton expanded the WLBC radio facility on 29th Street in southeast Muncie and constructed a 500 feet (150 m) tower outside the building.
Although WLBC served as the NBC and ABC affiliates of record for the Muncie area in the 1960s, the city and surrounding areas received at least Grade B signal coverage from television stations out of Indianapolis, located about 60 miles (97 km) southwest of Muncie – including NBC affiliate WFBM-TV (channel 6, now ABC affiliate WRTV), and ABC affiliate WLWI-TV (channel 13, now NBC affiliate WTHR) – as well as stations from Dayton, about 80 miles (130 km) to the east, and Fort Wayne, roughly 75 miles (121 km) to the north. To make matters worse, WLBC-TV was hampered by low viewership as only a small percentage of Central Indiana area television sets were even capable of receiving UHF stations since set manufacturers were not required to equip televisions with UHF tuners until the Federal Communications Commission passed the All-Channel Receiver Act in 1961; even then, UHF tuners were not included on all newer sets until 1964 and the retail prices for standalone UHF tuners at the time were high. The station eventually started a news department in the 1960s.
WIPB station history
Burton sold the UHF channel 49 license in 1971 to Eastern Indiana Community Television, a local ad hoc nonprofit group led by Gretchen Huff and Sunny Spurgeon, which had been working to apply for a license to operate an educational television station in Muncie. The group converted it into a noncommercial educational license, and changed the station's call letters to WIPB (for "Indiana Public Broadcasting"). Eastern Indiana Community Television subsequently sold the license to Ball State University, which signed on the station on the afternoon of October 31, 1971 as a PBS member station; as part of PBS's Program Differentiation Plan, the network's programming was divided between it and two other PBS members in the Indianapolis market – WFYI (channel 20) and Bloomington-based WTIU (channel 30); they were joined in 1992 by WTBU in Indianapolis (channel 69, now Daystar owned-and-operated religious station WDTI). WIPB, as a noncommercial outlet, briefly operated a news department during the 1980s, producing a daily newscast titled On-Line 49.
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|49.1||720p||16:9||WIPB-DT||Main WIPB programming / PBS|
|49.2||480i||4:3||WIPB-D2||Indiana Channel (4:00-7:00 p.m.) / Create (all other times)|
|49.3||WIPB-D3||Weather radar and audio simulcast of WBST-FM|
WIPB began broadcasting a digital signal on October 31, 2005. WIPB shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 49, on February 18, 2009, the day after the original target date for full-power television stations in the United States to transition from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate (which Congress had moved the previous month to June 12). The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 23. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former UHF analog channel 49.
Following the transition, WIPB decommissioned its original East 29th Street tower that formerly occupied its analog transmitter, which was dismantled in January 2013; its digital signal operates from a separate 800 feet (240 m) tower located to its south.
WIPB's claim to fame is most likely having been the originating station of The Joy of Painting, a half-hour art program hosted by Bob Ross. The station also produces Connections Live!, a half-hour weekly magazine program that focuses on the people and places of interest in Central Indiana that connect people to their communities; the program has won four Regional Emmy Awards since 2002.