SMYTH COUNTY, Va. - It's been nearly a week now since Blue Ridge Public TV turned off two transmitters that served far southwest Virginia.
State budget cuts forced the PBS station to shut down transmitters in Marion and Norton. It hasn't left us completely without a PBS outlet, but satellite users now don't have a local public broadcasting channel.
One of the broadcast transmitters high atop a ridge above Hungry Mother State Park is silent -- WMSY in Marion and WSBN in Norton have been turned off. It was a budget-cutting measure by the Commonwealth of Virginia. "That took a pretty big chunk of our budget away, about a million dollars out of our $3.5 million budget and as you can imagine it had a tremendous impact on us, and not in a good way," says Blue Ridge president and CEO Jame Baum.
The budget for public broadcasting, both radio and television, have been what's called 'zeroed out'. That means its gone unless legislation reestablishes it. "The two transmitters that are in question are not the stations that we've been forced to close. We were able to operate and provide services because of that state funding. Since it's gone we no longer have the funding in place; the money is simply not there to operate the two transmitters," Baum said.
Some local shows that were provided by Blue Ridge PBS have been picked up by some of the markets cable providers from the PBS station in Sneedville, Tennessee. "Song of the Mountains will continue, of course. Programs like Virginia Currents and some of the other great programs that we've produced for years will continue to be seen in the market through their good services," se says.
But the situation is not completely resolved with satellite providers. "Because of a technicality the satellite providers Dish and DirecTV have decided that they will not carry a local station in this market at least for now," Baum said.
But for now Blue Ridge PBS has lost two-thirds of its coverage area with no hopes of returning.
More facts for you: whether or not you'll be able to see Blue Ridge PBS on cable is up to your individual cable carrier. DirecTV is now carrying the national feed out of Boston and for now Dish Network is in the dark.