KGCS prepares to upgrade to digital broadcasts

Amye Buckley

Broadcast television is changing at Missouri Southern.

High-definition televisions and wide screens have changed the format, and now new regulations from the Federal Communications Commission require all broadcast stations to switch from the old analog signal to new digital channels. Southern, one of the few universities to have broadcast facilities, must change even though it is not a commercial station.

Dr. Robert Clark, professor of communication, came to Southern in 1984 when the television station started as a cable channel.

“The update is necessary because of the all digital equipment,” Clark said, “Updating the station to digital is necessary so we can broadcast, otherwise if we don’t update we’ll go off the air.”

With the change KGCS will move from channel 57 to channel 22, but for the viewing public that will be the most visible part of the transformation.

“Initially, the transition is going to involve the broadcast side with the transmitter the equipment for the antenna – what it takes to put the signal out over the air,” said Judy Stiles, program manager for KGCS. “That’s kind of like step one – you have to be able to broadcast with the new channel and the digital equipment.”

“We will also then be able to go back into the studio side of things and work on the equipment in the control room, the studio equipment and hopefully, eventually, all the way down to the field equipment that people take out in the field and shoot with their cameras, all digital throughout the process.”

Some of the newer studio equipment, cameras, switcher, and audio equipment dates from 1992, but much of the equipment is original to the 1984 station. The broadcast equipment dates from 1988.

Timing is an issue for the project. Two years ago the University was issued a FCC construction permit which expires this September. They knew the station had to change its transmitter, but did not have the funds. Southern officials approached Ruth Kolpin-Rubison, who has been active in funding department scholarships and Media Showcase Day. Kolpin-Rubison’s foundation approved the funding request.

Dr. Jay Moorman, department head of communication said Koplin-Rubison, her family, and her foundation have been long time supporters of communication studies.

“She is essential to the mission of Missouri Southern and our television station,” Moorman said.

“She has a lot of love for the industry,” Stiles said. “Looking at her career and what she has accomplished and I think, obviously, she’s going to leave a legacy in our community by helping us train students who will be following her footsteps in communications, mass media, and broadcasting in the future.”

With the funding secured, plans to revamp station services are developing.

“Right now we’re in, I guess you could say, the behind the scenes pre-bid process,” Stiles said.

First priority is to bring the broadcast section of the station up to FCC standards by September. After that, changes will be phased in over the next two to three years starting with the studio.

“It’s nice to see old stuff replaced,” Clark said.