WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner today announced that public TV networks and stations in nine states will receive $4.97 million to enable them to provide digital broadcasting services to rural residents.

The funds are being provided through USDA Rural Development's Public Television Digital Transition Grant program.

"Many of these stations transmit to sparsely populated areas," Conner said. "They are a vital link to rural communities, providing local news, educational programming, and other services. This funding is part of the Bush Administration's commitment to provide cutting edge technology to rural residents of our nation."

A $1 million grant will be provided to Northern Michigan University's WNMU-TV/DT, which provides targeted educational and instructional programming to grade school and high school students, along with those attending community colleges in the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The station, which also serves part of Northeastern Wisconsin, will convert its analog master control system to digital. This change will allow the station to provide more custom-tailored programming to students in the region thought multicasting, a feature inherent in digital television.

Nebraska Educational Television (NET) serves rural areas of the state with fourteen television translators. A $294,950 Rural Development grant will help NET replace seven of the translators with equipment that can provide digital service. NET provides services to some schools and rural households which may not receive other over-the-air television signals.

Oregon Public Broadcasting will receive $138,106 to install a digital TV translator to serve Baker City, a former frontier gold mining community of fewer than 10,000 residents in the eastern part of the state. The translator will allow the public broadcasting system to provide improved educational opportunities to the community.

A complete list of the grant recipients will be available online. Funding of selected applicants will be contingent upon meeting the conditions of the grant agreement.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in rural communities. More information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting www.rurdev.usda.gov.

SOURCE: USDA news release.