ThinkBright TV

WCFE-TV

WCFE is a PBS television station in Plattsburgh, New York. It is known under its corporate identity of Mountain Lake PBS. This name was adopted to reflect Plattsburgh's location between the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. It broadcasts on Channel 57 from transmitters on top of Lyon Mountain, between Plattsburgh and nearby Malone. WCFE's over-the-air coverage reaches many communities in Northeastern New York, Eastern Ontario (including Cornwall and parts of Ottawa), Vermont, and Southern Quebec (including Montreal.) WCFE's signal is also carried in Quebec City on cable as well as most of the Gaspe Peninsula and Chicoutimi. WCFE is available in over 1.6 million homes, either off-air or via cable, in this area.

On cable, WCFE can be seen on Comcast Burlington channel 14 and Charter Plattsburgh channel 7. On Vidéotron, it can be seen on channel 24 in west Montreal, channel 43 in central and east Montreal, and channel 50 on Illico digital cable.

Its studios and offices are located at One Sesame Street in Plattsburgh.

WCFE signed on in March 1977 from studios at SUNY Plattsburgh. In 1993, it rebranded itself as "Mountain Lake PBS" to reflect its growing viewership.

From 1990 to 1996, WCFE-TV had a sister National Public Radio station, WCFE-FM on 91.9. That station was sold to Albany's WAMC in 1996, who operates 91.9 as a repeater, WCEL.

Digital Television

The station's digital channel is multiplexed

Digital channels
Channel Programming
57.1 PBS HD
57.2 Simulcast of analog WCFE-TV
57.3 ThinkBright TV

Challenges

WCFE is in a unique market. Across Lake Champlain to the east lies the city of Burlington, Vermont, home to another PBS member station: Vermont Public Television. To the west lies Watertown and Potsdam, New York, home to PBS member WPBS/WNPI. As a result, in much of WCFE's broadcast area viewers are actually served by two PBS members. For years, WCFE has searched for a way to stand out.

One of its solutions has been to broadcast certain various signature PBS television shows at different dates and times from the main network, much as Long Island's WLIW has done to differentiate itself from New York City's WNET. For example, for a number of years WCFE did not broadcast PBS's Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday evenings; it would also broadcast Wall Street Week on Saturday instead of Friday, to name but two examples.

This practice has always been somewhat controversial amongst WCFE's members, especially those who do not live in overlapping broadcast areas. As a result, the station has reduced the practice somewhat, and has taken to airing a number of the most popular PBS shows at the same time as the main network.

WCFE has some 8,500 members (according to figures as of August 2004), 4,500 of whom live in Canada. The fact that more than half of its members are Canadian presents some challenges. First, WCFE has to take Canadian interests into account in its programming. Second, the Canadian presence has an impact in its fundraising activities. Not only does WCFE make an effort to include French-language elements in its fundraising for the Quebec market, but it must take into account that a part of the funds that it receives is in Canadian dollars. The fluctuations in the exchange rate between the Canadian and American dollar make budgeting difficult. In addition, in the past decade the decrease in the value of the Canadian dollar compared to its American counterpart has meant a decrease in revenues for WCFE. The Canadian dollar has gained ground since 2003, meaning a slight increase for WCFE.

2007 transmitter tower collapse

On April 18, 2007, WCFE's 400-foot transmitter tower located on Lyon Mountain completely collapsed as a result of heavy amounts of ice and snow from the April 2007 Nor'easter, and partially damaged the transmitter building at the base. The station started rebuilding a transmitter tower. In the meantime, the direct fiber optic lines to the local Charter Communications franchise were unaffected, and the station continued to broadcast on cable. On April 23, 2007, WCFE went back on the air as a temporary digital subchannel of WCAX-TV, broadcast from Mount Mansfield, Vermont. WCFE was seen on WCAX digital channel 53.3, though it was mapped via PSIP as channel 57.1. On August 10, 2007, WCAX discontinued carriage of WCFE, when interim facilities were established (see below).

Following the collapse, Vidéotron systems in Quebec that offered WCFE substituted its signal with that of Detroit's WTVS. On April 27, WCFE's signal was reestablished on Vidéotron, which received WCFE's signal from its temporary transmitter.

In addition, WPTZ donated its internet streaming facilities to WCFE, which was used for WCFE's annual Art Auction, which took place as scheduled, shortly after the collapse.

The transmitter that was damaged was a Thomson TBM unit. The company was able to provide one of their Affinity transmitters on lease to the station within two weeks of getting the request from the station. This temporary transmitter was located at the station's studio location until they could get the main transmitter facility repaired (which was a very involved process due to site access issues).

On October 9, 2007, WCFE's new tower at Lyon Mountain went into service, almost six months after the collapse. WCFE's digital signal went on the air on October 23.

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