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WPBS to stay on in Ottawa

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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WPBS-TV will still be on cable in Ottawa.


Rogers Communications Inc., which is the only cable transmitter in Ottawa, reversed an earlier decision Thursday to cut WPBS in favor of the Detroit PBS affiliate.


WPBS will transmit to Ottawa via a fiber-optic cable in addition to its broadcast signal.


"It provides redundancy," said David Purdy, vice president and general manager of video services for Rogers Cable. "It takes the reliability of the signal and improves it."


The redundancy means no blank screens, Mr. Purdy said.


"We want to have the best possible picture quality and reliability on all our signals," he said.


WPBS's President and General Manager Thomas F. Hanley said the station and Rogers had been working for several weeks on the solution.


"We will be using fiber that's already in place," he said.


The fiber transmission most likely will go through Buffalo. There are no fiber optic cables running across the St. Lawrence River, Mr. Hanley said.


WPBS signals are available to about 2.2 million viewers, the majority of whom live in Canada. WPBS has about 1,600 members in Ottawa, about 23 percent of its total membership. The financial loss to WPBS would have been about $300,000.


Loyal viewers in Ottawa vocally opposed the earlier Rogers decision, calling the cable provider and setting up the "Save WPBS TV in Ottawa" Facebook group, which has nearly 500 members.


Rogers heard from a "small, passionate group of customers" who argued against the earlier decision, Mr. Purdy said. But he maintained that the reason for the decision was the fiber signal solution.


"The fact that so many people love our programming makes us feel great and made them want a solution," Mr. Hanley said.


He said the threat of losing the station also pushed some Ottawans who weren't members to donate.


"We actually had people send us contributions who had not been members before," he said. "And that at a time when they thought they wouldn't get anything for it."


Mr. Hanley said WPBS agreed with Rogers not to disclose the cost of the fiber-optic signal, which will likely be up and running in the next few months.

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