Story by Mitchell Brown, for The Muleskinner—
The initials USDA, meaning United States Department of Agriculture, are often associated with Hereford beef on supermarket shelves and family farms, but through the USDA, KMOS-TV, UCM’s public broadcasting station, has been awarded a grant totaling $269,069.
The funds from the grant are to be used to continue the digital upgrade of the station.
Right now, KMOS is considered 98 percent digital in its operation. The grant will help to complete the final stage of a digital transition.
The funds are to be used for the upgrade of studio equipment and the purchase of digital satellite receivers.
Rosemary Olas, interim director of Broadcasting Services at UCM, said the current microwave links need to be replaced. She estimates the microwave links are between 15 to 20 years old.
The microwave link is the piece of equipment that sends out the broadcast signal. She said the older microwave link has become more high maintenance as it ages.
Olas said it would be difficult to make the transition from an analog signal to a digital signal without the help of grants.
Jeff Murphy, assistant director of University Media Relations, noted that this particular grant was only awarded to 24 broadband entities.
A set criteria exists for obtaining the USDA Digital Transmission Grant, including that the station in question is serving a predominantly rural population. Olas said of the four PBS stations in Missouri, KMOS serves the largest rural population.
“We’re about 96 percent rural,” Olas said. “That is the key requirement.” But it’s not the only requirement. A categorical point system is a factor, determining who is eligible for the grant.
Points determining eligibility are scored in three categories, rurality, critical need and economic need.
KMOS scored a total of 12.49 out of a possible 25 on economic need. Factored into the score of economic need is the number of children in the viewing area who are eligible for free or reduced lunch in the public schools.
On rurality, which is an indicator of how rural the serving area is, KMOS scored 28.04 out of 50. Olas said she was surprised that KMOS met the rural criteria in 2003, when the first USDA grant was awarded to the station.
“We didn’t realize how much of a rural audience we have,” Olas said. “That was a real eye-opener.” She said KMOS serves 35 counties in a 20,000-square-mile radius, and all the areas within are classified as rural, with only three exceptions — Columbia, Sedalia and Jefferson City.
Olas said after the complete transition is made to full digital/ high-definition service, the viewers will notice a more crisp picture quality.
Dorothy McGrath, manger of television and community programs at KMOS-TV and host of “University Magazine,” said she foresees the new digital equipment having an impact on UCM students.
McGrath said the rewards from the grant will give UCM students the opportunity to use new digital equipment that is currently used by broadcast professionals in what has become a tapeless society.