WCFE logo
Plattsburgh, New York
Branding Mountain Lake PBS
Channels Digital: 38 (UHF)
Virtual: 57 (PSIP)
Translators W25AT Tupper Lake
W25BT Monkton, VT
W60AO Port Henry
W67AR Willsboro
Affiliations PBS
Owner Mountain Lake Public Telecommunications Council
First air date March 6, 1977
Call letters' meaning Clinton,
Franklin and
Essex Counties, New York
(primary coverage area)
Former channel number(s) Analog:
57 (1977-2009)
Transmitter power 100 kW (digital)
Height 737 m (2,418 ft) (digital)
Facility ID 46755
Transmitter coordinates 44°41′43″N 73°53′0″W / 44.69528°N 73.883333°W / 44.69528; -73.883333
Website www.mountainlake.org

WCFE is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) public television station in Plattsburgh, New York. It is known under its corporate identity of Mountain Lake PBS. This name was adopted to reflect Plattsburgh's location between the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. It broadcasts on channel 38 from transmitters on top of Lyon Mountain, between Plattsburgh and nearby Malone. WCFE's over-the-air coverage reaches many communities in Northeastern New York, Eastern Ontario (including Cornwall and parts of Ottawa), Vermont, and Southern Quebec (including Montreal). WCFE's signal is also carried in Quebec City on cable as well as most of the Gaspe Peninsula and Saguenay.

On cable, WCFE can be seen on Comcast Burlington channel 14 and Charter Plattsburgh channel 7. On Vidéotron, it can be seen on channel 24 in west Montreal, channel 40 in central and east Montreal, and channel 50 on Illico digital cable.

Its studios and offices are located at One Sesame Street in Plattsburgh.

WCFE signed on in March 1977 from studios at SUNY Plattsburgh. In 1993, it rebranded itself as "Mountain Lake PBS" to reflect its growing viewership.

From 1990 to 1996, WCFE-TV had a sister National Public Radio station, WCFE-FM on 91.9. That station was sold to Albany's WAMC in 1996, who operates 91.9 as a repeater, WCEL.


Digital television

The station transmits on channel 38. But through the use of a virtual remapping ability of ATSC, it appears as channel 57.1, 57.2 and 57.3. The stations old analog channel number was 57. Thus the association with the virtual remapping being used.

The station's digital channel is multiplexed

Digital channels

Channel Resolution Programming
57.1 1080i Main WCFE programming / PBS
57.2 480i MHz Worldview
57.3 PBS World

Until the beginning of 2010, an SD simulcast of WCFE was broadcast on 57.2, while ThinkBright was broadcast on 57.3. From January to September 2010, Classic Arts Showcase was on 57.3.

WFCE-DT is currently transmitting at 55kW. There is an application before the FCC to increase its power to 200kW.


WCFE is in a unique market. Across Lake Champlain to the east lies the city of Burlington, Vermont, home to another PBS member station: Vermont Public Television. To the west lies Watertown and Potsdam, New York, home to PBS member WPBS/WNPI. As a result, in much of WCFE's broadcast area viewers are actually served by two PBS members. For years, WCFE has searched for a way to stand out.

One of its solutions has been to broadcast certain various signature PBS television shows at different dates and times from the main PBS station, much as Long Island's WLIW has done to differentiate itself from New York City's WNET. For example, for a number of years WCFE did not broadcast PBS's Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday evenings; it would also broadcast Wall Street Week on Saturday instead of Friday, to name but two examples.

This practice has always been somewhat controversial amongst WCFE's members, especially those who do not live in overlapping broadcast areas. As a result, the station has reduced the practice somewhat, and has taken to airing a number of the most popular PBS shows at the same time as the main PBS station.

Although WCFE is the second-smallest PBS member in New York state, it reaches a potential audience of 3.9 million people. However, its Canadian audience is far larger than the entire population of its largely rural American coverage area (Montreal alone has 10 times as many people as the Burlington/Plattsburgh market). Additionally, of its 8,500 members (as of August 2007), 4,500 live in Canada.[1] Not only must WCFE take Canadian interests into account in its programming, but its large Canadian viewership has an impact in its fundraising activities. Not only does WCFE make an effort to include French-language elements in its fundraising efforts, but it must take into account that a part of the funds that it receives is in Canadian dollars. The fluctuations in the exchange rate between the Canadian and American dollar make budgeting difficult. In addition, in the past decade the decrease in the value of the Canadian dollar compared to its American counterpart has meant a decrease in revenues for WCFE. The Canadian dollar has gained ground since 2003, meaning a slight increase for WCFE.

2007 transmitter tower collapse

On April 18, 2007, WCFE's 400-foot transmitter tower located on Lyon Mountain completely collapsed as a result of heavy amounts of ice and snow from the April 2007 Nor'easter, and partially damaged the transmitter building at the base.[2] The station started rebuilding a transmitter tower. In the meantime, the direct fiber optic lines to the local Charter Communications franchise were unaffected, and the station continued to broadcast on cable. On April 23, 2007, WCFE went back on the air as a temporary digital subchannel of WCAX-TV, broadcast from Mount Mansfield, Vermont. WCFE was multicast on WCAX (digital channel 53), mapped to channel 57.1. On August 10, 2007, WCAX discontinued carriage of WCFE, when interim facilities were established (see below).

Following the collapse, Vidéotron systems in Quebec that offered WCFE substituted its signal with that of Detroit's WTVS. On April 27, WCFE's signal was reestablished on Vidéotron, which received WCFE's signal from its temporary transmitter.

In addition, WPTZ donated its internet streaming facilities to WCFE, which was used for WCFE's annual Art Auction, which took place as scheduled, shortly after the collapse.

The transmitter that was damaged was a Thomson TBM unit. The company was able to provide one of their Affinity transmitters on lease to the station within two weeks of getting the request from the station. This temporary transmitter was located at the station's studio location until they could get the main transmitter facility repaired (which was a very involved process due to site access issues).

On October 9, 2007, WCFE's new tower at Lyon Mountain went into service, almost six months after the collapse.[3][4] WCFE's digital signal went on the air on October 23.

WCFE-TV ceased analog transmissions on February 17, 2009 and continued to broadcast digitally on channel 38, because of the Burlington/Plattsburgh area going exclusively digital for its TV stations. However, with the use of PSIP, receivers list its virtual channel as 57.

Outlying translators

External links


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