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Over the Mountains and Through the Valley

Nation’s first all-digital PBS station will serve Powell Valley area

August 2023

Joshua Deel (right), a senior producer for PBS Appalachia, films H. “Bill” William Smith for an episode of “Storytellers of Appalachia” in Big Stone Gap. Photos courtesy of PBS Appalachia.

By Susan Cameron, Cardinal News

The studio for the nation’s first all-digital public TV station, dedicated to covering Southwest Virginia, will be built at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Bristol rather than in Abingdon, as originally announced more than a year ago. 

PBS Appalachia Virginia can currently be watched in its service area through local cable providers, live-streamed via the website: pbsavirginia.org or the mobile app: PBS appalachia virginia, and accessed on demand at pbs.org or through the mobile app. 

“Partnering with Hard Rock is a perfect fit for PBS Appalachia because we are both community-minded companies that want to help move the region forward,” says Julie Newman, general manager of PBS Appalachia. “We are grateful for their partnership and support.” 

The planned studio will be about 4,000 square feet of space and is expected to be completed by July 2024. It will be enclosed in glass and there will be an adjacent control room so people can watch productions as they happen or watch shows playing on a virtual wall when the studio is not being used. 

Originally, the plan was for the new station’s studio to be built at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Center in Abingdon. Those plans were first announced in July 2022. 

Newman says the change was made once those involved realized how complicated it would be to join two nonprofit organizations under the same roof. 

“We’re not moving forward with a partnership with the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center. But there’s no bad blood there. It simply was a matter of … once we started trying to piece together a partnership, the marriage of the nonprofits started to get a little messy because the cultural center has several layers of partnerships,” she says. 

The mission of PBS Appalachia is to serve an area that is not currently receiving PBS and its content, which includes segments of the Powell Valley area. 

Until the new station is built, Blue Ridge PBS, headquartered in Roanoke, is serving as a parent station to PBS Appalachia. Southwest Virginia viewers can now watch the full offerings of PBS from news to kids’ programming, as well as local content focusing on Southwest Virginia residents and their stories. 

Newman says those at the station are working hard to make sure the “production quality is better, the content is better and it serves the mission of what we say we’re going to do, which is celebrating Southwest Virginia.”

This article comes from Cardinal News, an online nonprofit news agency based in Southwest Virginia.