MARTIN, Tenn., Feb 04, 2011 -- The move of broadcast television from analog to digital signals freed up valuable airwaves for mobile phones and new media, but it also left more than 100,000 viewers in rural areas of West Tennessee without access to WLJT, their public television station for the last 40 years. U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher and USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode today joined WLJT General Manager/CEO Monica Shumake to announce federal funding that will help solve the problem.
Congressman Fincher said, "Families living in rural communities must have access to quality telecommunications. While cities and suburbs have abundant telecommunication choices many rural areas are left underserved. Today we are one-step closer to bridging the gap by providing our rural communities with digital access to WLJT."
USDA Rural Development Public Television Digital Transition grants assist public television stations serving predominantly rural populations in transitioning to digital broadcast television transmission. West Tennessee Public Television Council, which owns and operates WLJT, has been awarded $735,550 to fund improvements that will boost the digital Television signal strength and reach.
"For a lot of families, WLJT is an important source of news, educational programming and entertainment," said Goode. "We appreciate the Congressman's support for Rural Development to help WLJT extend service in rural communities from river to river."
WLJT serves more than 200,000 households in West Tennessee outside of Shelby County. The station has received national recognition for both programming and community outreach services. Offices, studios and master control facilities are housed on the campus of The University of Tennessee at Martin with transmitter facilities located between Lexington and Jackson, Tennessee.
Others participating in the event included Sen. Lamar Alexander's Representative Matt Varino, State Senator Roy Herron, State Representative Andy Holt, Carroll County Mayor Kenny McBride, Henry County Mayor Brent Greer, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire, Weakley County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Barbara Virgin, Northwest Tennessee Development District Executive Director John Bucy, President of West Tennessee Public Television Council Audrey Roberts, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Regional Economic Development Specialist Sherri McCarter, WLJT-DT Director of Engineering Kenneth Robinson and RD Area Director Harriet Cannon.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, homeownership and affordable rental housing in rural communities. With supplemental funding through the Recovery Act, the agency assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses, investing more than $1.3 billion through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants. More than 86 percent of these investments will be paid back with interest. The rest is at work creating jobs, broadening the local tax base and increasing opportunities in education, training, healthcare and public safety.
For more information on Rural Development programs available in West Tennessee contact the Rural Development Area Office in Union City at 731-885-6480 ext. 4 or visit us online at www.rurdev.usda.gov/tn.
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or call (800) 795-3272 TDD (615) 783-1397