SDPB awarded $782,236 from USDA

SDPB awarded $782,236 from USDA South Dakota Public Broadcasting has been awarded two grants, totaling $782,236 from the United States Department of Agriculture.

The grants, each at $391,118, will allow the network to upgrade the digital television transmission equipment at stations KZSD-DT at Martin and KPSD-DT at Eagle Butte.

The upgrades will allow SDPB Television to reach a wider area in these two rural western South Dakota coverage areas once the network switches to digital television (DTV) broadcasting.

"We are very pleased," said Otto Doll, commissioner of the South Dakota Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT). "SDPB strives to meet the needs of everyone in the state, from the sparsely populated areas that will be reached with the help of these grants to the state's major cities."

SDPB is a division of BIT. The grants were awarded to SDPB through the South Dakota Educational Telecommunications Board, which oversees the statewide network and holds SDPB's broadcast licenses.

The grants were offered through the Rural Utilities Service Public Television Station Digital Transition Grant Program. SDPB's two grants were among 16 awarded nationwide from among 44 applications. The grants were based on the rural nature of the coverage areas, income levels and critical need.

At present, two of the network's planned nine digital transmitters are in operation: Rapid City and Sioux Falls. KBHE-DT Channel 26 in Rapid City and KCSD-DT Channel 24 in Sioux Falls are receiving the PBS HD Channel for now, allowing viewers with DTV capable sets or receiver boxes to see a sample of DTV picture and sound quality.

Over the course of 2004, SDPB plans to initiate digital transmission at the remaining seven transmitters.

Eventually, the digital transmitters will offer the regular SDPB Television schedule.

The transition to digital is required by the Federal Communications Commission for public and commercial television stations nationwide. The FCC has set 2006 as the cutoff date for analog transmission (the present mode for most viewers).

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