Lakeshore PBS has been down for a month, and suspected vandalism might keep it off the air for longer than originally anticipated.
The Merrillville-based station, which broadcasts shows like "Sesame Street," "Antique Roadshow," "American Experience" and "Dinosaur Train" on WYIN Channel 56, may not be able to fully restore its 950-foot transmitter until Sept. 26.
“We are very appreciative of the many viewers and members who’ve reached out to us during our outage, letting us know that they miss their programming and their PBS station,” Lakeshore Public Media President and CEO James Muhammad said.“Their biggest concern is that we are going dark permanently. Believe us, we will be back as soon as possible. We want to be up and operating more than anyone.”
The station, which also airs local programming like Lakeshore Focus, the Roundtable Perspective and PFR Scoreboard, went off the air on July 16 after a storm battered its 15-year-old transmitter near Cedar Lake, which turned out to be damaged beyond repair.
It can still be viewed on Comcast's Xfinity across the greater Chicago area because the cable company has a backup fiber connection.
So it can be seen by everyone else, Lakeshore PBS was however forced to buy a new transmitter at a time when there's a backlog of orders because of the FCC spectrum auction and station repack. The new transmitter is expected to take until Sept. 26 to get online.
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The public television station brought in a low-power transmitter for the meantime, but ran into technical problems and then discovered multiple faults in the transmission lines.
"Station officials are working with local authorities to investigate the damage, which is believed to have been caused by vandalism that occurred on the overnight of Aug. 3," Lakeshore PBS said in a news release.
Lakeshore PBS has since increased security, brought in special testing equipment and will try to extend the low-power signal as widely as possible once the temporary transmitter is finally up and running.
Vice President of TV Operations Matt Franklin described the mounting series of obstacles as a “perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances.”
“It wasn’t just one thing, it was many — the age of the transmitter, a new engineering team, the spectrum auction and the vandalism — all happening at once to keep us off the air so much longer than we ever could have expected,” he said.