Campaign for the Digital Future

Posted by Tom Axtell on
Tom Axtell
Tom Axtell, General Manager

In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission issued an order directing all television stations in the U.S. to convert from analog to digital transmission by 2003, which was later delayed until 2009. The cost of acquiring the required new digital production and distribution equipment was estimated to be $9 million per station. To meet this new mandate, the Southern Nevada Public Television board launched a quiet campaign to raise the funds for digital conversion.

The digital Channel 10 signed on in 2002 – a year ahead of the original FCC timeline – and Vegas PBS became the first television station in Nevada to offer a full-time, full-power high definition program service. It soon became clear that our old building on Channel 10 Drive lacked the space and infrastructure necessary to house the new equipment. Building an addition was cost-prohibitive, so the Board launched a public campaign to seek community funds for a new digital public television building. We partnered with the Clark County School District to co-locate their online high school with the TV studios.

Through a bidding process, we hired JMA Architectural Studios and Martin Harris Construction to create a nationally unprecedented facility with innovations in green building technology and all the survivability and security recommendations of federal commissions formed after Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. The groundbreaking occurred in 2007, but before the ribbon cutting in 2009, the recession forced three donors to cancel more than $2 million in pledges.

Southern Nevada Public Television took a deep breath, re-launched the capital campaign, and raised more than $500,000 in each of the last four years to retire the unanticipated building debt. Our last payment to retire the debt was made this September. After more a decade of planning and fundraising, Southern Nevada Public Television secured $38,701,381 in the “Campaign for the Digital Future.”

Since 2000, more than 32,000 individuals and 50 corporations and foundations provided funds for Vegas PBS’ digital equipment and building, and more than 100 people have served the SNPT Board or Councils. This campaign has been a truly remarkable public-private partnership made possible by our community’s affection for the trusted, valued and essential services provided by Vegas PBS. As a result, the Vegas PBS Educational Technology Campus has become a national showcase for the television industry, online education and emergency communications.

The campaign’s success provides you with the digital technology and infrastructure to provide full-service PBS programming and high-impact local productions that respond to the issues facing our community, and the joys of living here. Thanks to all who had a part in this remarkable effort.

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