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Lakeshore PBS restored to full power across Chicagoland market

Lakeshore PBS's new transmitter was recently installed, allowing the station to return to the airwaves.

Ken Burns, Rick Bayless, Christopher Kimball, Rick Steves, Curious George and all the old favorites are back.

Lakeshore PBS has returned to full power and restored its PBS broadcast on WYIN channel 56 across the Chicagoland market after a violent storm last year.

“We are proud to announce a resumption of full broadcast service,” said James Muhammad, president and CEO of Lakeshore Public Media.  “It has been an ordeal but we are now back, and we should be better than ever.”

A new digital transmitter finally has been installed and certified for broadcast, meeting all the Federal Communications Commission requirements. Lakeshore PBS had to spend $400,000 on repairs over the last six months.

“It takes a large investment in capital to operate a TV station, and this incident shows how challenging it is,” Vice President of TV Operations Matt Franklin said. “Now that our full power transmitter is tested and certified, Lakeshore PBS is fully operational and better prepared to serve our communities for years to come.”

A storm knocked the Merrillville-based station off the air on July 16 of last year, forcing Northwest Indiana's local Public Broadcasting Service affiliate to replace its 15-year-old transmitter. The station remained viewable on Comcast because of a failsafe system.

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Lakeshore PBS installed a temporary low-power transmitter in August while it went to purchase a new one, but then found vandalism that damaged transmission lines.

“We reached out to vendors from across the Midwest and beyond to make the tower climb and do the repair,” Franklin said. “We knew that tower crews would be hard to come by, but we never realized how difficult it would be.”

A crew from Milwaukee made the first repair in October, but cold weather in November resulted in freezing issues that again prevented broadcasting.

A crew from the Oklahoma City-based company Sky Tower made the nearly 1,000-foot climb in late March to repair the damaged transmission line. The manufacturer needed another eight weeks to complete the installation

“Through all of this, we heard from many viewers and members during our outage, letting us know that they missed their programming and their PBS station,” Muhammad said. “We want them to know that we truly apologize for the length of this outage. It has been something that we never could have believed was possible.” 

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.