The station transmits from the top of Stone Mountain in state-owned Stone Mountain Park, located just east of Atlanta in Stone Mountain, Georgia. (It shares this short broadcast tower with NOAA Weather Radio station KEC80, and formerly with WABE FM 90.1.) The city of license is Athens, Georgia, a legacy of its early years as a service of the University of Georgia. It is considered the primary ("parent") station for one (originally two) low power television (LPTV) broadcast translator, in the north Georgia mountains. Eight other full-power stations also simulcast the network across the state, originally relayed via microwave radio towers and now via communications satellite. There is no local insertion, instead all station identification is done on a single screen for all stations.
WGTV's analog signal was the strongest of the GPB TV network, covering most of the northern part of Georgia, extending in about a 75-mile (120 km) radius from the transmitter site. WGTV's digital/HDTV facility started broadcasting on December 20, 2007 on channel 12. However, it was at very low power, unable to be received through much (if not most) of metro Atlanta. It moved from channel 12 to full power on channel 8 after the analog shutdown in February 2009, using the same digital transmitter re-tuned to use the channel 8 antenna. This selection, made without conflict in the first-round digital channel election, is due to WDEF-TV in Chattanooga opting to stay digital on channel 12. WGTV was originally assigned channel 22 for DTV operations, but requested the frequency allotment change to channel 12 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), also allowing a change to 22 (from 59) by WSKC-CD. "Distant" viewers can receive two other GPB digital TV stations: WNGH-TV 33 (18.x) in the northwest metro area, and WJSP-TV 23 (28.x) in the southwest.
The analog station was 316 kilowatts effective radiated power (ERP) (the maximum for high VHF), at 326 meters (1,070 ft) HAAT. The temporary digital station was only 16 kW at 304 meters (997 ft). The current 21 kW is still well below the limit of 63 kW for digital stations on high VHF (channels 7 to 13), which would also be legally equivalent to what it had on analog. Because of this, reception is still difficult in much of metro Atlanta. Unfortunately for over-the-air PBS viewers, the same situation also exists at WPBA, though WGTV is still available on most analog cable TV systems unlike WPBA, which was cut off by Comcast.
WGTV began broadcasting on May 23, 1960. It was licensed to the University of Georgia and operated out of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education. The station's VHF allocation was originally occupied by WSB-TV, which at that time was owned by the Atlanta Journal. The Journal's competitor in Atlanta, the Atlanta Constitution, had applied for and received from the FCC a construction permit for channel 2, which was to be called WCON-TV. When the Journal and Constitution merged, media ownership rules of the day did not permit one entity to own two television stations in the same market. Plans for WCON-TV were scrapped and WSB-TV moved to channel 2 from channel 8 in 1951. The ABC-TV affiliate WLTV broadcast on channel 8 from 1951 to 1953, when the station moved to channel 11 (now WXIA-TV) to avoid radio interference with newly launched WROM-TV Rome, operating on adjacent channel 9.
Cox Enterprises, owner of the Journal and Constitution, donated the channel 8 license to UGA for an educational television station, but it took seven more years to get the station on the air. In 1965, WGTV merged with a group of four stations owned by the state board of education to form Georgia Educational Television, later known as Georgia Public Television and the forerunner of today's GPB television network. In 1982, ownership of the license was transferred from the University of Georgia to the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission.
From 1965 to 1982, WGTV often broke from the main GETV/GPTV signal to broadcast programs of local interest to the Atlanta area. However, since all of the GPTV licenses were consolidated with the GPTC, network programming airs on WGTV at all times.
Programming on WGTV and Atlanta's other PBS member station, WPBA, is basically the same, with some important differences. Programs shown in prime time on one station, such as Live from Lincoln Center, will often not be shown at all on the other station or be shunted to Sunday afternoons, which in some quarters is considered "viewing limbo", since many people are either at church, at sporting events, or at the movies. Very often, GPB has its own programs, such as Georgia Outdoors, while WPBA has its own as well. Often these programs are telecast on prime time, relegating programs such as Live from Lincoln Center to obscure hours. Occasionally, WGTV will not broadcast a Lincoln Center or a Great Performances concert or special at all, especially during pledge drives, preferring to telecast such self-help programs as those of Suze Orman or Dr. Wayne Dyer, or perhaps a reunion of a 1950s rock group. In 2011, this resulted in WGTV's not showing a Live from Lincoln Center telecast of The Nutcracker. (Sometimes, but not always, the fine arts programs are made available for viewing online on the PBS website.) Since WGTV is reckoned as Atlanta's flagship PBS station, it has priority for most PBS programming in prime time. Partly because of this, after the analog shutdown WGTV became the sole PBS station available on analog cable on Comcast's systems in the Atlanta area.
Prior to 2001, both stations went off the air at midnight; WPBA still goes off the air on Sunday nights. GPB used to sign off with Ray Charles's version of "Georgia On My Mind" which is the official state song, while showing scenes from the north Georgia mountains to the Georgia coast.
Both original broadcast translators are or were located near the state's border with South Carolina, in areas where coverage from a full-powered GPB transmitter is insufficient, due to the distance from the main transmitters and the hilly or mountainous terrain in northeast Georgia. A third translator, this time digital, replaced an analog one previously assigned to WJSP-TV.
- W08EG-D Toccoa, former analog W68AF, which originally applied for digital on 10
W52AACarnesville, applied for digital on 12, dismissed October 2006, cancelled August 2007
- W13DJ-D Carrollton, replaces analog W49AD, which had its license cancelled after this station went on
WGTV broadcasts the following digital subchannels:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|8.1||1080i||16:9||GPB-HD||Main GPB programming / PBS|
WGTV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 8, on February 17, 2009 at 11:59 p.m., as part of the federally mandated transition from analog to digital television (which Congress had moved the previous month to June 12). The station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition VHF channel 12 to channel 8. Playing a farewell video of outdoor scenes around Georgia set to the tune of "Georgia On My Mind" by Ray Charles, the official state song, before permanently ceasing transmission. A final message at the end of the video read "In fond remembrance of the era of analog television broadcasting on Georgia Public Television." The transition to digital ended nearly 49 years of analog broadcasting by WGTV.