A couple of letters have come in from DirecTV subscribers who watch PBS shows on Western Reserve Public Media, about the seeming absence of the channel. Short answer: You can get it, but only if you have DirecTV in HD. Here's the note on the Western Reserve website:
Thank you for your patience while Western Reserve PBS and DirecTV have been working to resolve reception issues. We have finally implemented a solution that should solve the problem. The solution, however, requires you to have high-definition equipment and to receive DirecTV's high-definition channels. If you have any related questions or concerns, please contact Western Reserve PBS by phone at 1-800-554-4549 or by email at email@example.com.
More in-depth explanation regarding the change
Because of limitations in DirecTV’s receive and uplink facilities for local stations, we were only able to implement a solution to the reception issues for Western Reserve PBS for the subscribers who have high-definition equipment and are able to receive high-definition channels.
If you only have standard-definition service
If you are currently a standard-definition-only subscriber or any of the receivers in your house are standard definition, those receivers will no longer be able to receive Western Reserve PBS.
What you can do if you only have standard-definition service
You can receive Western Reserve PBS in high definition if you upgrade your equipment. Upgrade options and costs vary widely depending on what equipment and channel package you currently have, so you will need to contact DirecTV for your best options.
This stems from an ongoing issue between the station and the satellite service, which I descrbied back in September. Here's the explanation:
DirecTV subscribers who watch public-television station WNEO/WEAO (Channels 45/49) have been having problems getting the channel because of connection issues between the satellite-program service and the station.
Western Reserve Public Media, which runs the stations, has a statement on its website explaining the situation this way:
"Sometime in late 2012, DirecTV began receiving our HD channel off the air from their facility in downtown Cleveland. Their receiver antenna is on top of a two-story building, and there are taller downtown buildings in the path of our signal from Copley that are contributing to interference problems.
"We are broadcasting at 100 percent of our FCC-allowed maximum power and we are having no problems with our signal," the statement adds. "Our engineers have been in contact with DirecTV management and engineers to try to resolve the reception issues. DirecTV is not willing to make any special accommodations to receive our signal, so an alternate method of delivery to its facility at our expense is being investigated. Please know that we will continue to work with DirecTV to try to resolve this issue. We hope to have an uninterrupted broadcast of our channel on DirecTV in the Cleveland market in the very near future."
But that hope may be fleeting. For one thing, as the note indicates, DirecTV does not see a reason to change its approach - not least because it also offers public-TV outlet WVIZ (Channel 25) in its package of local stations. That means viewers looking for PBS programs have another way to get them than via Western Reserve.
Second, there's a cost issue here. A Western Reserve representative said the station would have to pay a minimum of $10,000 to make adjustments for DirecTV - and possibly much more. And, while the station gets calls regularly from frustrated DirecTV viewers, it's not clear how many viewers watch it via the satellite service. So is the investment worth it? So don't expect resolution of this soon.