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WUSF TV switching to high-def

With a grant from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), WUSF is transitioning from standard to high-definition TV (HDTV) broadcasts.

The station hopes to complete a portion of the transition by March, said WUSF General Manager JoAnn Urofsky.

WUSF’s engineering staff is working to install some of the equipment the station has already purchased for the transition, she said.

As WUSF continues to complete portions of its transition, the station will receive the $170,000 PBS grant in increments, Urofsky said.

“PBS wants to make sure all (their) stations are able to broadcast in HD, so they are helping us be able to do that,” she said.

Because HDTV has a higher resolution than standard-definition TV (SDTV), the quality of WUSF’s picture will improve.

“It will improve the content. The picture on your television will look better if you’re looking at us over the air,” Urofsky said.

To broadcast in HDTV, the station will produce its content in SDTV format and then convert it. Urofsky said she hopes the station will one day produce its content in HDTV.

In addition to creating its own content, WUSF broadcasts video from outside sources produced in SDTV. The station will convert that content to HDTV before airing it, Urofsky said.

WUSF broadcasts four digital channels: WUSF TV, WUSF Kids, WUSF Create and Florida Knowledge Network.

Only the station’s main channel, WUSF TV, will broadcast in HDTV, Urofsky said. The other three channels will continue to broadcast in SDTV.

“People want to see an HD picture. I think that every station that could possibly do this is trying to do this,” Urofsky said. “Why wouldn’t we?”

Though there was a nationwide switch from analog to digital broadcasts on June 12, Urofsky said WUSF has been broadcasting digitally since July 2005.

Digital broadcast systems can transmit HDTV and SDTV picture formats.

During the digital transition, major cable companies were required to choose a primary PBS station that would have digital and analog broadcast formats, said Joe Durkin, senior director of corporate communications for Bright House Networks, to the Oracle in June.

Durkin said the requirement to choose was part of a national agreement between the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the Association of Public Television Stations made in November 2008.

Of the two PBS stations in the Tampa market – WUSF and WEDU – Bright House chose WEDU as its primary PBS station.

Part of the reason Bright House chose WEDU was because it already broadcasted in HDTV at the time, Durkin said.

“We chose WEDU for a couple of simple reasons. WEDU had a higher viewership. WEDU also broadcasted in high-def, and WEDU had a greater amount of PBS programs,” he said in June. “It actually made the decision easier for us.”

Urofsky said WUSF’s transition to HDTV has nothing to do with Bright House’s decision.

Though WUSF is switching to HDTV, Urofsky said she doubts Bright House would change its decision and make WUSF its primary PBS station.

She said she hopes the transition to HDTV will be complete by summer.