WDSC: Constantly evolving asset for Daytona Beach

By Erik Uhlik
Special to In Motion

Like a living entity, WDSC-Channel 15, Daytona State’s education-minded television station, is constantly evolving with each passing year. Since its inception, it has focuses not only on being a professionally operated TV station, but just as importantly an educational facility.
The current broadcast day is 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the school’s educational programs offer training for no less than 15 jobs within the television industry. It began operating as WCEU in 1985 because Orlando’s public station was ignoring Volusia County’s programming needs. In the early years, the program day was three hours, but four years later, WCEU became a Public Broadcast System station member, subscribing to educational, but also very expensive programming options.
In 1992 the station expanded its broadcast range to Orlando and viewer numbers grew to over one million people. A decade later, the station became the sole PBS licensee in Central Florida due to other station closures. During 2008 the name was changed to WDSC-Channel 15 to better reflect its connection with Daytona State College. On Dec. 15 of the same year, WDSC led the nation in meeting a federal mandate to move to digital by shutting down its analog transmitter which was broadcasting on UHF Channel 15. It is currently broadcasting on UHF digital 33 and virtual channel 15.
The station currently continues to air public television from sources like the National Educational Telecommunications Association and American Public Television, although it is no longer a PBS affiliate.
Associate Professor Anita Bevins began working at Daytona State College 12 years ago as a contract producer. She eventually branched out into teaching at the school in 2011. Her main purpose is to educate and supervise students, but she is also responsible for development and coordination of activities within the station, along with producing programming for the station.
“The station serves two main purposes, to provide local content and fulfill its mission requirements,” says Bevins. “It is important to the community because of the local content it produces. It fulfills the interests of the community and is a tremendous asset to the college.”
As the school has grown, so has the television program. The school recently introduced a two-year Television Production AS degree to accompany its current Television Certificate Program. Mike Rentnelli, the Production Manager, has worked at the station since 1994. With almost 24 years of experience at WDSC, he wears many hats at the station. He is responsible for producing, directing, editing, graphics production, engineering assistant, troubleshooting and repairs.
Rentnelli says, “The station is critical to the community because of its unique programming, hands on experience it offers the students of the programs and occasional freelance job opportunities. We are unique in that our mission requires that we show completely different programming than any other Central Florida public television station.”
The station left behind its PBS membership when Governor Rick Scott cut public television funding in the state by $4.8 million in 2011.
“The programs we show are now part of our NETA subscription. Some programming is free and some are purchased,” explains Rentnelli.
Last summer the college invested in a fiber optic upgrade to its capabilities to support the new degree program. The design of the campus allowed the school to place cameras at several venues. As part of that effort, says Rentnelli, “We now cover 14 different sporting events and produce a coach’s show to promote those programs.”
Station’s Manager Larry Lowe is also Chief Engineer, Master Control Operator and Programming Director. He was responsible for planning the fiber optic upgrades and the station’s programming choices. He’s also a former student in the TV production program. Naturally, he’s extremely proud of the station, what they’ve been able to accomplish and what the station brings to the community and College.
“We not only carry local programs, we also broadcast Australian, British and Irish news content,” says Lowe. “We are the dream station. Although not a copy of WESH -TV, it is very similar. The design is spacious, efficient and user-friendly.”
The station currently employs five people and is ultimately funded by the College’s Board of Trustees. The station’s budget is substantial, but so is the cost of running it.
As the curriculum expands so does the cost. The station annually hosts an “End-of-Year Gift Giving Campaign,” and actively seeks corporate and individual donors throughout the year.
Anyone who enjoys the station’s alternative, largely ad-free programming can make a donation. The station has a link to do so on its main page. Or feel free to visit the website at www.daytonastate.edu/wdsc and give with an open heart and educated mind.