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WCNY Gets $6.6M to Run Master Control for All New York PBS Stations

SYRACUSE — The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has awarded more than $6.6 million to help execute a previously-announced plan to consolidate master control operations for every PBS affiliate in the state inside the future home of local PBS affiliate WCNY on Syracuse’s Near Westside.  The new facility is already under construction.

The way it’s described in a press release issued by the CPB today, the idea sounds similar to something already in place at Syracuse ABC affiliate WSYR-TV.  There, a central master control “hub” provides services for WSYR along with other Newport Television-owned stations in Rochester, Watertown, Binghamton and Elmira.  The hub to be built at WCNY’s future home will be even bigger — serving every PBS affiliate in the entire state, including WNET in New York City.  The facility will also serve two New Jersey channels operated by WNET.  Add up all the digital subchannels involved, and WCNY will eventually be handling master control duties for a total of 34 different channels across the state.

The money is technically being awarded not to WCNY directly, but to Centralcast, LLC, “a collaborative of public television stations” across New York State.  The $6.6 million investment in new master control equipment is expected to save public broadcasters at least $25 million over the next decade.  CPB says those  savings can be used to help public broadcasters expand their services, specifically naming “much-needed K-12 educational activities, local election coverage and secondary channels such as the Spanish-language ‘V-me’ service.”

CPB says “each station will retain full control of its own broadcast schedule, including popular local programs.”  In other words, to the home viewer, it should appear as business as usual — all the changes will be taking place behind the scenes.

Full Press Release

Here’s the full text of the press release issued by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting today:

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Funds Cost-Saving Technology Project for New York Public Television Stations

Consolidating stations’ broadcast operations could generate $25 million in savings over the next decade

Washington, D.C. (Oct. 13, 2011) – The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) this week announced a grant of more than $6.6 million to consolidate the broadcast operations of nine New York public television stations into a single entity.

The grant is part of CPB’s ongoing effort to help public media stations operate more efficiently and generate cost savings that can be invested in increasing local content and services.

Funding from CPB enables the station collaboration to build and manage one centralized master control, which will automate the on-air operations of 34 public television channels run by nine New York stations, including two New Jersey channels operated by WNET. The single, cutting- edge facility, housed at WCNY in Syracuse, is expected to save participating stations more than $25 million over the next decade.

These savings can be used to continue much-needed K-12 educational activities, local election coverage and secondary channels such as the Spanish-language “V-me” service.

“At CPB, we work every day to strengthen and advance the public media system in this country,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB. “By strategically investing in projects that help stations collaborate and operate more efficiently, we enhance their capacity to deliver quality local content and services in the communities they serve.”

“This is an exciting development in the future of public media. Thanks to CPB’s support and guidance, stations collaborated to create a new model of efficiency and cooperation that is more powerful than anything any individual station could have done,” said Neal Shapiro, president and CEO of WNET. “We think we’ve forged an enduring alliance that will keep our public media stations strong and allow us to concentrate our resources on producing great content.”

The project serves as a model for those public stations around the country that want to benefit from economies of scale in a challenging economic environment.

“Over the years, New York State’s public television stations have worked cooperatively to achieve operational savings and deliver educational programs and services to teachers, students and parents. Our Joint Master Control initiative represents a continuation and extension of these collaborative efforts,” said Robert J. Daino, president and CEO of WCNY. “In this very difficult fiscal climate, consolidation of our master control operations will result in considerable operational savings, insuring our ability to continue to make available the types of community engagement, education programs and other services that will improve teacher quality and ultimately student performance.”

Each station will retain full control of its own broadcast schedule, including popular local programs and multi-cast channels providing statewide legislative coverage.

The new master control facility will help WCNY transform an empty warehouse on the edge of downtown Syracuse into its new broadcast home. The 56,000 sq. ft. space will also house television and radio production studios, a learning center, a concert auditorium, a cafe and other amenities.

The CPB grant will go to Centralcast, LLC, a collaborative of public television stations formed by the Association of Public Broadcasting Stations of New York (comprising WCFE, WCNY, WNET, WLIW, WNED, WMHT, WPBS, WSKG and WXXI).

About CPB

CPB, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operation of more than 1,300 locally-owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.

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