WPBA (or simply PBA; channel 30.1, DTV 21) is one of two PBS-member TV stations in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The callsign stands for Public Broadcasting Atlanta and it is counterpart to WABE FM 90.1, the Atlanta area's local National Public Radio station. Both are licensed to and operated by the Atlanta Public Schools. The two stations share a studio on Bismark Road in the Morningside-Lenox Park neighborhood of Atlanta.
It is the only PBS station in Georgia not run by Georgia Public Broadcasting as part of the GPB television network. There is some duplication (but only rarely simulcasting) of programming with GPB primary station WGTV. Unlike WGTV, WPBA datacasts UpdateTV, an over-the-air programming service which updates the firmware on some brands of ATSC tuners, via the PBS National Datacast network, thus being able to receive the station will benefit owners of those devices. Conversely, WPBA is also one of the few PBS stations not to broadcast any digital subchannels, possibly because some of the bitrate is occupied by datacasting (WGTV operates two subchannels on its frequency, serving the area). The station has also datacast TV Guide On Screen since the beginning of October 2009, after CBS affiliate WGCL-TV ended the service following technical issues the service caused for some viewers with certain DTV converter set-top boxes.
Prior to the permanent shutdown of all analog TV in the U.S., the station typically turned off its analog TV transmitter late at night (generally 1-5 AM), but could still be seen on most cable TV systems, DirecTV and over the air on digital TV at all hours.
The station signed-on on February 17, 1958 as WETV (Educational Television), Georgia's first public television station. At first, it only broadcast during school hours, but gradually added programming for the general public. Originally a member of National Educational Television, it joined PBS on October 5, 1970. The station had the callsign changed to WPBA in 1984. The WETV callsign today is now used by a low-power television station in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, WETV-LP Channel 11.
In 2000, WPBA's digital signal on channel 21 began operation.
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|30.1||1080i||16:9||WPBA-DT||Main WPBA programming / PBS|
WPBA shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 30, on June 12, 2009, as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television. The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 21, using PSIP to display WPBA's virtual channel as 30 on digital television receivers.
On June 12, 2009—the official end of full-power analog broadcasting in the United States--Comcast cut off WPBA to analog subscribers. This contradicted a moratorium on such actions which runs until well after the over-the-air cutoff, in order to prevent viewers from losing all sources of any channel all at once. Comcast now only airs WPBA for Atlanta-area viewers over digital cable on virtual channel 16 (816 for HDTV) as part of post-digital-transition rules allowing the system to carry only one PBS station in their area for analog viewers. (In this case, WGTV was chosen for carriage since it was presumed as the Atlanta area's "flagship station" for PBS.)
However, all analog subscribers are entitled by FCC regulation to receive simplified digital television adapters (DTAs) from the cable company at no extra charge (and extra boxes for a maximum of two dollars each per month), in order to recover channels that have been taken away but are still on the basic tier of service (below channel 100). These devices require a separate remote control which may not work with universal remotes or personal video recorders' IR blasters for recording WPBA programming.
WPBA and WABE share two adjacent towers]s in the east side of the city between Edgewood and Kirkwood with the single antenna used by WSB-FM 98.5, WSTR FM 94.1 and WVEE FM 103.3. (Those three radio stations' transmitters are diplexed together, so that they all feed to the antenna instead of into each other.) WABE was formerly on Stone Mountain, but had to leave when WGTV needed the space for its digital equipment, in addition to maintaining analog, and the use of the tower by KEC80 to transmit NOAA Weather Radio.
Like WGTV, WPBA also has a weak signal well below the maximum power allowed, limiting its useful broadcast range. As a result, its over-the-air signal is marginal at best outside the Perimeter (i.e., Atlanta itself and the inner suburbs).