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    WUSF moves into modern studio

    The new $9.1-million facility gives WUSF-Ch. 16 a better chance to produce programs that can be distributed nationally.

    By LINDA GIBSON

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2001


    TAMPA -- After 35 years in the basement of the student services building, the staff of WUSF-Ch. 16 feels as if the station is moving up in the world.

    Station staffers still are bringing boxes and furniture from their old, cramped, windowless basement quarters into their new, $9.1-million building on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.

    Already, USF students have discovered the window-lined, first-floor walkway that lets them view whatever is going on inside the studios and master control room. Eventually, monitors will go up in the walkway to display what program is on Channel 16 at the moment and programs still in production that are being worked on in the studios.

    "We're thrilled to be here," said program manager Susan Geiger, a 16-year employee whose old office was a cell-like cubicle. "For so many years, students and faculty didn't even realize we were on campus."

    The new broadcast building, shared by WUSF's television and radio staffers, was 20 years in the making, said General Manager James B. Heck. That's how long USF has been trying to get money for it from the Legislature.

    The Federal Communications Commission mandate that all broadcasters add digital capability by 2003 boosted the urgency of the station's funding request. Its old equipment was almost obsolete.

    In 1998, the state Education Department awarded a $6-million grant for the building, and the state threw in another $2-million for equipment.

    "The new building is almost incidental. The equipment is what's important," said Heck.

    Not that anybody objects to the big new studios and roomier offices.

    Instead of two small studios of 1,200 square feet or less, the station now has two studios of 3,000 square feet each. The new cameras, editing suites, monitors and control stations all are digital. Discs have replaced tape.

    An editor trying to cut a scene can go directly to that scene instead of having to go through all the tape preceding it, and the finished program can be stored on a hard drive. The master controller can call it up at the touch of a button instead of having to root through tapes shelved in the storage room.

    The new facility gives WUSF-TV a better chance to produce programs that can be distributed nationally, thus raising the university's profile, as well, said Geiger.

    A series called Beyond Science, produced by the University's Division of Sponsored Research, has evolved into four, one-hour specials that will be distributed nationally by American Public Television. The first one, on killer viruses, should be aired this summer, said Geiger.

    WUSF-TV is the fourth most-watched public television station in Florida, behind WEDU in Tampa and stations in Miami and Orlando. Its broadcasts can be seen from Venice to Brooksville.

    Much of its programming is educational. It also runs classic movies and public television programs such as Nature, Nova and travel shows. Other programs are done by independent producers or university departments.

    The radio station shares space in the new building with the television station. Staffers at WUSF-FM 89.7 have a new newsroom and new, digital equipment.

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