Oct 31, 2009

Fairbanks PBS switches from UHF to VHF

Reception problems with PBS affiliate KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska, prompted it to move from UHF Ch. 24 to VHF Ch. 9, at a cost of $1.1 million and six days off the air, according to Broadcasting & Cable. It switched in late September by undergoing rechannelization. The new Harris VHF transmitter and ERI transmission line and antenna had to be installed in a "tightly coordinated process," B&C reported, due to Alaska's brief period of mild weather. Climate is always a challenge in the state; currently, a message on the dual licensee's website explains to FM radio listeners that all that static is due to the transmitter operating at reduced power because of antenna icing. "Unfortunately, nothing can be done but wait for the weather to get colder which will cause the snow/ice to fall off of the antenna," it says.

Mister Rogers and the birth of zombies

In case you missed it, zombie originator George Romero (the creatures were his creation in Night of the Living Dead) was a guest on the Halloween edition of NPR fave Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! He shared this interesting factoid: Romero got his start working with Fred Rogers on the Mister Rogers episode, "Let's Talk About Going to the Hospital," in which a little girl gets a tonsillectomy.

How Clifford was born

The books that inspired Clifford the Big Red Dog on PBS, now in its ninth season, were born of desperation in 1963, according to an interview with 81-year-old author Norman Bridwell in the Seattle Times. A woman whose job it was to read unsolicited manuscripts--known as the "slush pile"--at Harper & Row, knew that publisher would not be interested in it. But she "put it in her purse without telling anyone" and took it to Scholastic, Bridwell recalled. "I was just trying to find work," he said. "I'd been out of work and had a brand new baby daughter who wasn't sleeping through the night and my mother was visiting from Indiana. It was a very tense time.... I'm so lucky. If that woman hadn't come in that day (to look at the slush pile), things would have been very different." Today there are more than 126 million "Clifford" books in print in 13 languages.

Sid's flu shot brings letters to PBS ombudsman

An episode of Sid the Science Kid explaining flu shots prompted letters to the PBS ombudsman this week. Michael Getler shares them and his take on the matter in his new Mailbag column.