WNIT to expand coverage of MichianaPublished 10:30am Thursday, January 21, 2010
WNIT Public Television is moving into a new building and taking advantage of new digital opportunities, changes that will increase its impact on southwest Michigan viewers, the station’s president said Monday.
Mary Pruess, president and general manager of the local public television affiliate, said the planned addition of more channels will eventually result in the addition of a “Michiana” channel, with live event coverage and programs related to the greater Michiana area.
“We look forward to a really robust interaction with the community we serve, the community that owns us,” Pruess said while speaking to the Niles-Buchanan Rotary.
After the move to digital television last year, stations have the ability to broadcast multiple sub-channels. Already, WNIT broadcasts two channels. A move into the former WSBT-TV studio in downtown South Bend will provide WNIT the infrastructure it needs to add a third and possibly a fourth channel.
“The connectivity is the issue now. As soon as we’re able to add that connectivity … we’ll have the ability to add those,” Pruess said.
WNIT is also adding connectivity at the Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, giving it the ability to broadcast events at the college live to its viewing audience.
For most of its 35 years, WNIT has been headquartered in the Elkhart Career Center. Six years ago, the school that houses them expressed a desire to utilize more space. That, combined with the public television station’s desire to expand its own capacity left a need for a new facility.
During its search for a new home, WNIT received 13 proposals, including one that would have seen the station housed in Niles.
Ultimately, though, the former WSBT-TV home provided the most opportunity for WNIT, given that a studio had already been constructed in that building.
After a $6.5 million capital campaign that included $3 million in construction and $1 million in equipment expenses, WNIT is ready to move into its new home in April.
The new facility, on the corner of Jefferson and Lafayette in South Bend, will include a 20-foot-high digital façade and space inside for community meeting rooms and tours.
According to Pruess, WNIT has a $3 million annual operating budget, 60 percent of which is funded by viewer donations and memberships. Gail Martin, director of major gifts for the station, said that Niles has the most members of any city in Michigan. WNIT broadcasts to 22 counties in the area.