ELKHART -- WNIT's move into new digs may mean some youngsters will have extra time today to spend playing outside or reading inside.
The public television station will be turning off its high definition signal as master control equipment is transported from the Elkhart Area Career Center to the new WNIT Center for Public Media in South Bend. And that will keep Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog from visiting.
Channel 34.1 will be off the air today, according to a release from WNIT. Meanwhile, the standard definition channel, 34.2, will not display such local features as station identification and may experience temporary changes in the program schedule.
Regular broadcasting for both channels is expected to resume Wednesday.
The disruption will mark another phase in WNIT's relocation which was originally scheduled to begin in late 2008. The office staff has already moved into the former WSBT-TV studios at 300 W. Jefferson Blvd., South Bend, said Mary Pruess, president and general manager. Once the master control equipment is installed, the studio and production machinery will be brought over, probably in mid-June.
When the migration is completed in the summer, the administrative offices and studio will be housed in the same building for the first time in the 35-year history of the local station, said Roger Chrastil, WNIT spokesman.
"The community...has come together to make this possible," Pruess said. "It really will create a new foundation for WNIT to be a community media."
A key part of the relocation project has been the installation of the "digital backbone," Pruess said. This will enable the station to offer video on demand and do remote broadcasts from communities around the region.
Also, WNIT will be able to receive and provide feed to the Indiana Channel which broadcasts programs from public television stations across the state. The Indiana Channel will be folded into a new Michiana Channel which will feature local programming and is expected to be on the air this summer or fall, Pruess said.
WNIT first announced in 2006 its plans to leave its home Elkhart County. Then in January 2009, the station's offices on the Career Center property burned, forcing the administrative staff to temporarily set up shop in the former Baker & Daniels building on Franklin Street.
Donations and assistance from businesses and organizations around the area has helped WNIT go forward with the relocation process.
"It's a real community project," Pruess said. "We're grateful."