Media Scene

WTVI switches PBS airtimes to offer more choices

Charlotte’s WTVI (Channel 42) will shake up its weekday prime-time schedule later this month to put it on a different pattern than competing PBS stations in the region.

Since 2012, WTVI has carried the mainstream, first-run PBS schedule with signature programs like “Frontline” and “Masterpiece,” duplicating the programming on two other public TV networks carried in Charlotte, UNC-TV from Research Triangle Park and SC ETV from Columbia.

While this brought the independent public TV station the best-known PBS shows, including the popular “Downton Abbey” and “NOVA,” it meant all three channels were showing the same material in lockstep.

Beginning June 17, WTVI will carry top PBS shows on a different night than the two statewide networks.

WTVI will air local programs, including “Carolina Impact” and “Trail of History” on Tuesday nights, which used to run on Thursday nights.

Regular Tuesday night PBS programming, like “American Experience” and PBS specials, will air Wednesday nights on WTVI, a day after they appear on UNC-TV and SC ETV.

On Thursday nights, WTVI will carry the PBS science night programs like “Nature” and “Nova,” a night after they air on the two statewide networks.

On Friday and Saturday nights, WTVI’s schedule – which is composed of shows that differ from those of the statewide networks – will remain unchanged.

Amy Burkett, WTVI’s general manager, says the station had to get a “common carriage waiver” from PBS to move the programming to different nights. She says she believes it is one of the broadest waivers PBS has granted to a major affiliate.

“This will help us define ourselves,” Burkett says. “Five nights a week we will have differentiated programming.”

To save money, WTVI is outsourcing its master control operation. Burkett says that will save about $2 million in replacement costs for aging equipment. Master control, the technical center from which programs are broadcast, will move to the PBS affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., which will operate WTVI’s digital channels remotely.

Six full-time positions have been eliminated at WTVI with the change, Burkett says.

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