WOUB Public Media To See Minor Changes, Future “Quasi-Endowment”

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ATHENS — With the completion of a Federal Communications Commission broadcast auction, WOUB viewers will see minor changes, and community support remains “imperative” to the future of the station, station leaders said.

The FCC recently shared that the television broadcast Spectrum Auction had officially completed, according to a release from Ohio University and WOUB.

Stations across the country were invited to participate in the auction, and could choose whether to give up their bandwidth, share their bandwidth with another station or not participate in the auction at all.

WOUC-TV in Cambridge participated in the auction, receiving $18.4 million after electing to move to a VHF frequency. Broadcast services will continue as normal, with only minor changes to the station’s broadcast as the move occurs.

The costs of moving WOUC to a new frequency will be paid for with the money received in the auction, with no new debt incurred to the university, the release stated.

Any remaining auction funds will be placed into a “quasi-endowment” through Ohio University, exclusively reserved to support “WOUB’s public broadcasting community and strengthen its educational mission.”

Mark Brewer, general manager of the WOUB Center for Public Media. stressed that, while both the Spectrum Auction funds and the quasi-endowment will allow his team to make technical upgrades and expand their educational services, help from the community and others remains imperative.

“The support of members, donors, underwriters and state and federal funding will remain critically important to WOUB Public Media’s continued operations,” he said.

In accordance with university policy, the endowment will not be fully vested for three years.

WOUB-TV in Athens did not participate in the auction, citing needed protections for its UHF spectrum and future technology opportunities as its key reasons for its decisions, according to the release.

“WOUB-TV will continue to broadcast as we do currently – as a non-commercial public television station licensed to Ohio University that offers a full signal of digital channels and provides opportunities for hundreds of students per semester,” Brewer said.

The station will, however, transition to a higher UHF channel/frequency as a result of the FCC auction. The majority of the costs for the move, which includes a new transmitter and related equipment to be installed within the next 18 months, will be paid for by the FCC.

“Changing position on the UHF band is something that will happen to many stations across the country and should be relatively seamless to viewers,” Brewer said in the release. “We will still be displayed as channel 20.”

Scott Titsworth, dean of the Scripps College of Communication, said a “significant amount of engineering work” will be required within a short amount of time, but the team is ready to rise to the challenge.

“This process took a tremendous amount of work by station staff, and it included input from numerous individuals, including OHIO’s Board of Trustees, our President and the offices of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Vice President for Finance and Administration,” Titsworth said. “We look forward to continuing to serve our viewers and the area with content, services and outreach that educates, informs and inspires.”

The future of WOUB will include “cutting edge” technology, Brewer wrote in the release. One new technology on the horizon is an updated broadcast standard, ATSC 3.0, that is currently under development; it will provide all broadcasters new capabilities within their existing bandwidth and greater opportunities for WOUB Public Media, according to the release.