Technical glitch keeps TV station off air

Please stand by. WUSF-TV Channel 16 is having technical difficulties and they could last until Saturday.

Since Monday, WUSF-TV has been off the air because of scorched transmission lines.

Although the station is being broadcast through Time Warner Cable and WFLA News Channel 8, viewers who don?t have cable are not receiving WUSF-TV.

Viewers without cable account for 25 percent of the station?s audience, which comes from about six counties.

Students who take telecourses through Open University and do not have cable are at a disadvantage. They cannot watch the programs that are vital to their classes.

Besides students, professors also look to the station to broadcast the courses.

?I thought it was temporary,? said Maritza Chinea-Thornberry, a Spanish professor, of the problem. ?I didn?t realize it was that serious.?

Chinea-Thornberry teaches Destinos, a telecourse in Spanish. The soap-opera style program airs Mondays and Wednesdays.

?I only had one student complain, and I told her to go to the library.?

Adrienne McCain, who works in Educational Outreach, said the office has received calls from students and professors concerned about the station?s problems.

?We weren?t really ready for that,? she said. ?We were thrown for a loop.?

McCain said all telecourses have been affected by the outage. She said students have the option of viewing the programs in the Library?s Media Center on the sixth floor.

?We are trying to find solutions,? she said.

Despite professors and Educational Outreach telling students to head to the Library, staff in the Media Center said they haven?t noticed an influx of students checking out telecourse videos.

?There?s always a lot of students checking out the videos,? said Mary Helen Haas, senior library technical assistant.

Bill Buxton, WUSF-TV?s station manager, said he plans to rebroadcast the programs.

?We?ll make sure no content is lost and no students lose access,? he said.

As for repair, Buxton expects the bill to total around $30,000 to $40,000.

?There was a lot of damage,? he said.

A shipment of copper transmitter line is on its way from Pennsylvania to Riverview, in eastern Hillsborough County, where the station?s 1,000-foot broadcast tower is located. Buxton said the installation should be completed by Friday morning.

Once the pipes are installed, crews will run tests. But if they find problems, WUSF-TV would return to the airwaves Saturday morning.

Crews were doing routine maintenance Monday morning when there was a problem in the transmission line and the line got scorched, Buxton said.

The last time WUSF went off the air was four years ago, and viewers couldn?t watch the Public Broadcasting Service station for four days.

Since being off air, Buxton said the station receives 40 calls an hour from viewers wanting to know what happened to the broadcast. The high volume of calls does not annoy him. He said the problem has shown him how important the station is to viewers.

?It?s been really gratifying,? he said.

?They?re concerned.?

Contact Selina Roman at