|Slogan||Atlanta's PBS Station|
|Channels||Digital: 21 (UHF)|
Virtual: 30 (PSIP)
|Owner||Atlanta Public Schools|
(Board of Education of the City of Atlanta)
|First air date||February 17, 1958|
|Call letters' meaning||Public Broadcasting Atlanta|
|Sister station(s)||Radio: WABE|
Cable: APS Cable Channel 22
|Former callsigns||WETV (1958–1984)|
|Former channel number(s)||Analog:|
30 (UHF, 1958–2009)
|Transmitter power||55.4 kW|
|Height||265.7 m (872 ft)|
|Public license information||Profile|
WPBA, virtual channel 30 (UHF digital channel 21), is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station licensed to Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Owned by Atlanta Public Schools, it is a sister outlet to National Public Radio (NPR) member station WABE (90.1 FM) and local educational access cable service APS Cable Channel 22. WPBA and WABE share studios on Bismark Road in the Morningside/Lenox Park neighborhood of Atlanta; WPBA's transmitter is located on New Street Northeast (south of DeKalb Avenue) in the city's Edgewood neighborhood. On cable, the station is available on Comcast Xfinity and Google Fiber channel 16, and AT&T U-verse channel 30; there is a high definition feed available on Xfinity digital channel and AT&T U-verse channel 1030.
WPBA is the only full-powered public television station in the state of Georgia that is licensed to a public educational institution or district, and the only educational television station in Georgia that is not operated as part of the Georgia Public Broadcasting PBS statewide member network.
The station first signed on the air as WETV (standing for "Educational Television") on February 17, 1958; it was the first educational television station to sign on in Georgia. WETV originally served as a member station of the National Educational Television and Radio Center (NETRC), which evolved into National Educational Television (NET) in 1963. During its first fourteen years of operation, channel 30 maintained a 20-hour weekly schedule of instructional programming, broadcasting only on Monday through Friday afternoons from August through May; much of the station's programming in its early years consisted of video telecourse lectures televised in cooperation with the Georgia Board of Education, which offered course subjects attributable for college credit. Programming from NET aired on WETV year-round during prime time for three hours each Monday through Friday (from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.). The station gained a competing public television outlet, when the University of Georgia signed on Athens-licensed WGTV (channel 8) on May 23, 1960; as a result, WGTV took precedence as Atlanta's primary PBS station with WETV becoming the service's secondary market outlet.
On October 5, 1970, WETV and WGTV – which became the flagship of the Georgia Educational Television state network (now Georgia Public Broadcasting [GPB]), after the University of Georgia merged the latter into the Georgia Board of Education's four-station statewide programming service five years prior – became member stations of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), which was launched as an independent entity to supersede and assume many of the functions of the predecessor NET network. On May 10, 1984, Atlanta Public Schools changed the station's call letters to WPBA (standing for "Public Broadcasting Atlanta"). (The WETV call letters are currently used by a low-power television station in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.)
On September 6, 1999, WPBA assumed time-lease rights to Atlanta Public Schools' APS Cable channel (which is carried on Comcast channel 22 in metropolitan Atlanta), which began carrying programming from the upstart PBS Kids Channel each night from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., with instructional programming acquired by the school district continuing to air during the daytime hours.
In 2005, WPBA heavily reduced its PBS program offerings after Atlanta Public Schools and station management decided to make channel 30 a participant in the service's Program Differentiation Plan; this came amid frequent complaints that WPBA and the Georgia Public Broadcasting television service had redundant programming that regularly caused viewer confusion. (Although there is duplication of programs distributed via the PBS national feed on both WPBA and Georgia Public Broadcasting, neither station simulcasts any content from the service.) As a result, the station began to carry only 25% of the programming broadcast by PBS' national feed, whilst giving GPB right of first refusal rights and even exclusive access to any new programs carried by PBS. To make up for the reduced lineup of PBS shows, WPBA also expanded its reliance on syndicated programs from American Public Television and other distributors as well as locally produced news and public affairs programs. At that time, the station changed its on-air branding to "PBA 30".
On July 23, 2018, WPBA discontinued the "PBA 30" branding after ten years and changed its moniker to "ATL PBA," removing references to its over-the-air virtual channel. The following day (July 24), Atlanta Public Schools reached an agreement with PBS to convert WPBA into a full-service member outlet in order to better compete with Georgia Public Broadcasting and its flagship WGTV for viewers, public and private monetary contributions and corporate programming underwriters. The move, which will allow WPBA to carry any content supplied by the service, will result in a roughly $500,000 increase in programming expenditures; however, the station does not plan to simulcast programming with the GPB state network and will inform GPB of its scheduling decisions, which may also result in some shows added to the lineup airing on as little as a 24-hour delay. The station plans to keep its Monday and Friday lineups – which primarily rely on British programming – unchanged, and expand local program production.
WPBA and WABE share two adjacent towers in the east side of the city between Edgewood and Kirkwood, with the single transmitter antenna used by local radio stations WSB-FM (98.5), WSTR (94.1 FM) and WVEE (103.3 FM). (The transmitters used by the three radio stations are diplexed together, so that they all feed to the antenna instead of into one another.) WABE formerly maintained transmitter facilities on Stone Mountain, but was forced to relocate as a result of WGTV needing the space for its digital equipment, in addition to maintaining its analog transmitter, along with the existing use of the tower by KEC80 to transmit NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts.
Like WGTV, WPBA also has a weak signal well below the maximum power allowed by the FCC, limiting its useful broadcast range. As a result, its over-the-air signal is marginal at best outside of the I-285 Perimeter (i.e., Atlanta itself and the inner suburbs).
The station's digital channel is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP Short Name||Programming|
|30.1||1080i||16:9||ATLPBS||Main WPBA programming / PBS|
In addition to broadcast transmissions over its digital signal, 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. The station has also datacast TV Guide On Screen since the beginning of October 2009, after CBS affiliate WGCL-TV (channel 46) discontinued transmitting the service amid technical issues that the service caused for some viewers that owned certain digital television set-top boxes.
For the first eighteen years of digital television operations, WPBA was 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). On March 28, 2018, the station began carrying NHK World-Japan on digital subchannel 30.2. NHK World is the global English-language service from Japan's national public broadcaster, offering hourly newscasts originating from Tokyo with a mix of cultural, travel and documentary programming.
WPBA began transmitting a digital television signal on UHF channel 21 in 2000. WPBA shut down its analog signal, over UHF channel 30, on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. 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. The termination of WPBA's analog over-the-air signal allowed for low-power station WTBS-LP (channel 26) to proceed with its buildout of its digital transmitter, which was allocated UHF 30 to serve as its physical digital channel assignment.
On the date of the transition, Comcast ceased transmitting WPBA to its analog service within Metro Atlanta, contradicting a moratorium on such actions that ran until well after the over-the-air cutoff, in order to prevent viewers from losing all sources of any television station at once. WPBA continued to be available to Atlanta-area viewers on digital channel 16 in standard definition and 816 in high definition. (To comply with FCC rules requesting that a cable system to carry a PBS station in their market for analog viewers post-transition, WGTV continued to be carried on Comcast's analog service by way of its presumptive status as the Atlanta market's "flagship" PBS station.) However, all analog subscribers are entitled under FCC regulations to receive simplified digital television adapters (DTAs) provided by their cable system at no extra charge (and extra boxes for a maximum of $2 per month, per box), in order to recover channels to which they lost access but are still carried on the provider's basic tier (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 programs.)
As a PBS member station, much of WPBA's programming consists of educational and entertainment programming distributed by PBS to its member stations (which include Antiques Roadshow, America's Test Kitchen, Arthur, Lidia's Kitchen, Masterpiece, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, This Old House and Sesame Street) as well as content from American Public Television and various other distributors. While there is cross-promotion between WPBA and WABE radio, the latter conducts pledge drives independent of those conducted by channel 30. The station's programming schedule also consists of cultural and educational programs, documentaries, general interest and children's programming.
WPBA's weekday lineup is mostly filled by children's programs from PBS and American Public Television (such as Curious George, Wild Kratts, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Odd Squad and Ready Jet Go!) from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., with a two-hour block of cooking shows and British drama series in the early afternoon. Programs provided by PBS are primarily shown on most nights in prime time except for Fridays, which (as is the case with its Monday evening lineup) instead features a mix of British drama content from PBS and American Public Television. On Saturdays, WPBA carries a broad mix of art instruction, cooking and how-to programs during the morning and afternoon hours, and movies and encore presentations of PBS prime time shows in the evening. Sundays feature additional children's programming in the morning (from 6:00 to 9:00 a.m.), with the remainder of that day's schedule outside of prime time consisting of travel series and encores of PBS documentaries.
From August 2000 until WPBA and other television stations permanently shut down their analog broadcast signals, the station's broadcast transmitter was typically turned off during the overnight hours (generally from 1:00 to 5:00 a.m.). In order to fill time until the station resumed broadcasts each morning, Comcast, Charter Communications, AT&T U-verse and other Atlanta-area cable providers carried the PBS Satellite Service over WPBA's assigned channel slots during the designated sign-off-to-sign-on period. (Until its broadcast stations adopted such a schedule in February 2009, WPBA was one of the few remaining broadcast television outlets in the United States that had not converted to a 24-hour-a-day schedule.) Beforehand, many other cable providers around the Atlanta market carried other lower-priority cable networks that limited headend frequency space precluded from assigning them to a separate full-time channel over WPBA's channel slots as filler during overnight–early morning time periods during the broadcast signal's off-air period.