The Story of WPDS-TV14 Pinellas County Schools Educational Television Station
Pinellas County Schools was granted a low-power television license by the Federal Communications Commission in 1988. With the license came 24-hour programming capability and a requirement to be on the air by May 23, 1989. WPDS-TV14 made that deadline, thanks to a 180-foot transmission tower constructed on the site of the new administration building in Largo.
In addition to being available on UHF Ch. 14, the school system's television station also appeared on the county's two cable systems, Paragon and Vision Cable. All of the programming for WPDS-TV14 came from the Florida Department of Education and was intended for classroom use.
In 1995, WPDS-TV14 began producing local programming starting with Focus on Education, a monthly interview show with J. Howard Hinesley, Ed.D, superintendent, and Al Ruechel. During the 1996-97 school year, a newsmagazine element was added to the program. The name was changed to PCS Journal in 1998. At that time, another signature local program was added to the WPDS-TV14 lineup, Student Measures.
In 1996, the school district petitioned to the FCC to change its call letters from W14AW to WPDS. During that same time, both local cable systems moved WPDS to WPDS-TV14 on their cable lineup.
The station continued to grow during the late ‘90s, adding many district academic competitions and entertainment performances to its broadcast schedule. Community interest grew, and the station created a firm local identity.
Lunchtime Jam! was added to the weekday lineup in the fall of 2005, and new student-driven content, such as Friday Night Hi-Lights and Teen Cuisine, was added to create a fresh look to the station. In the fall of 2007, a new look to WPDS franchise programs – Student Measures, PCS Journal and Digital Learning – debuted, showcasing improvements to the station’s studio. In 2008, WPDS produced a two-hour live debate featuring candidates in three Pinellas County School Board races.
In the summer of 2004, the digital conversion of the station began with the rebuilding of master control and installation of an automated computer encoder and on-air playback system. This innovation greatly enhanced WPDS-TV14 's ability to offer viewers a greater variety of programs on its broadcast schedule.
The next phase of the station’s digital conversion was completed in the summer of 2007 with the rebuilding of the control room and edit suite. The final phase of that conversion was completed during the summer of 2009 with the launch of three additional digital channels. In 2010, WPDS-TV14 created the student focused Advanced Television Production Studies program, designed to enhance the educational opportunities for students in the field of television production.
WPDS-TV14 is now seen on Bright House Networks Ch. 635, WOW Ch. 2 and Verizon Ch. 46. In August 2012, Superintendent John Stewart moved WPDS to the Teaching and Learning division of Pinellas County Schools with the new focus of developing programming to support curriculum and instruction. Many of the new concept television programs were created to support this new mission.
Currently, WPDS-TV14 produces more than a dozen locally produced television programs focusing on education within Pinellas County Schools. They ranges from the arts-(Spectrum of the Arts), science-(Science Rocks), technology-(Digital Learning), examples of outstanding instruction practices (Inside the PCS Classroom) and ESOL- (Hablemos).