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Mary Robinson is all about real-world information on the switch to digital television signals. The success of the DTV switch will depend on regular folks understanding new technology and getting it running in their homes. Ms. Robinson is weighing in on those nitty-gritty details, sharing her enthusiasm for TV-signal technology with those who are less technically inclined. She’s developed an expertise through years of hands-on experimentation, pulling in signals from the rooftop of her Texas home. Now she’s a resource for consumers struggling with the digital switch. We discovered Mary right here on TVWeek.com, where she reliably dispensed information in the comments section of this story, First Digital TV Converter Box Wins Government Approval about the digital switch. Let’s keep the conversation rolling!

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November 2008 Archives

Digital Switchover Will Be Here Before We Know It

November 24, 2008 11:54 AM

Well, we have less than 3 months left before the end of full power analog television transmission. The switch to digital is approaching rapidly. Where do you stand? Are you prepared? I hope so, because it will be here before we know it.

I am going to touch on some odds and ends this morning. More or less an update as to what has been happening around here as far as the transition to digital is concerned.

I finally got around to cutting the antenna that was felled by Hurricane Ike off of my roof last weekend. I was able to salvage most of the telescoping antenna mast, mainly because I did not have it extended all the way up. I was able to piece enough together to allow me to erect another antenna to within about 3 feet as high as my old one. That is OK for now—it will save me the cost of buying another mast or imposing on my friend for some pipe. It will be adequate for the time being.

I am going to replace my Radio Shack VU-190 XL antenna with a Channel Master 3671 deepest fringe antenna. I already have purchased a CM 7777 signal booster. I just need to find the time to get it all put up. I will be out of town most of the Thanksgiving weekend, but I will find the time soon, I am sure.

There are a couple of things happening here on the home front concerning the transition to digital. I am going to give a run down of where we stand here in the Beaumont/Port Arthur, Texas market.

The biggest story to hit the news here in the last couple of weeks was surely a surprise. Our local full power NBC station, KBTV channel 4 (digital channel 40) unexpectedly announced at the end of October that they were ending their 51 year relationship with NBC and were to become a FOX network affiliate on Jan. 1, 2009. This leaves us for the time being without an NBC station.

At this time, KBTV transmits a micro power signal of 1.28 KW (1,280 watts) from their 1,227 feet above ground (AG) analog transmitting tower in Vidor, Texas. This tower has been deemed "structurally unsound" to support the weight of the full power digital antenna. This tower already supports the KBTV analog antenna, temporary digital antenna, and the antenna for the 100,000 watt FM radio station KIOC. KBTV claims that they are going to increase their low power digital signal enough to cover 85% of the KBTV analog viewing area.

KBTV attempted to negotiate a contract with KVHP channel 29 (digital channel 30), the FOX station out of Lake Charles, Louisiana, but was unable to come to terms on an agreement. KBTV has opted to begin construction of a new tower immediately adjacent to the existing tower, and claim that the tower will be finished by Feb. 1, 2009. KBTV has been granted a construction permit extension until Feb. 17. 2009. KBTV states that the transmitter and antenna have been ordered, and that it fully expects to be up and operational at the end of the transition period. KBTV is transmitting a 480 standard definition signal at this time. There has been no word as to what future HD standard they will adopt.

I am not surprised that a contract could not be negotiated with KVHP. That would have put two full power FOX television stations on the same tower, Duh.

KFDM channel 6 (digital channel 21), a CBS affiliate, has constructed their final DTV facilities, but they are awaiting action from the FCC on a maximization application to increase the effective radiated power (ERP) from 50KW (50,000 watts) to 280 KW (280,000 watts). KFDM transmits from a tower that is almost 886 feet high above ground (AG). and they transmit a 1080 HD signal on the main channel and a 480 SD signal on the sub-channel 6.2 that carries the CW network.

KPLC channel 7, an NBC station, which is available to some of the viewers in our area, is broadcasting a digital signal on channel 8 at this time, but will revert to channel 7 after the transition. KPLC has constructed the full power final DTV facility and will commence digital broadcasting on channel 7 on Feb. 18, 2009 at an ERP of 31 KW from an antenna that sits on a tower that is 1,480 feet AG. KPLC carries a 720 HD signal on the main channel, and 24/7 news and weather in SD on the 7.2 sub-channel. They also carry a notice that The Tube, a music video network is no longer available due to circumstances beyond their control on sub-channel 7.3.

KBMT channel 12, an ABC station, is broadcasting a digital signal on channel 50 at this time and had been granted a Special Temporary Authority to continue to broadcast on channel 50 until Aug. 8, 2009. The new digital transmitter is expected to be delivered in late January or early February. At the end of analog broadcasting, the analog channel 12 antenna will be removed, and the new digital channel 12 antenna will be mounted on the 980 feet AG tower. The analog channel 12 transmitter will be removed from the cabinet, and the new channel 12 digital transmitter will be installed. The conversion to digital channel 12 is expected to take about 30 to 45 days from the end of analog broadcasts, and KBMT should be transmitting the authorized full power maximization power of 160 KW well before the Aug. 18 deadline. At the time that the channel 12 digital transmitter is operational, the channel 50 transmitter will be shut down and the digital channel 50 antenna removed from the tower. KBMT is transmitting a 720 HD signal on one main channel. There has been no word as to what programming, if any, KBMT will employ on any future sub-channels.

KLTL channel 18 (digital channel 20), a Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB and PBS) affiliate is available to the eastern 1/3 of our viewing area, and is broadcasting a digital signal from a tower that has an ERP of 55 KW from a tower that is 977 feet AG. KLTL is awaiting action from the FCC on an application to move to the KPLC tower and transmit 75.6 KW from a height of 1,400 feet. KLTL transmits the LPB and PBS on the 18.5 sub-channel and LPB and PBS in SD on the main channel of 18.1. Alternate programming is carried in SD on the 18.3 sub-channel.

KVHP channel 29 (digital channel 30), a FOX affiliate, is broadcasting a mini-micro signal of .2 KW (200 watts) from the studio to transmitter link (STL) tower at the studios on I-210 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. KVHP states in filings with the FCC that there is no room in the transmitter building to house both the analog transmitter and the digital transmitter. The new digital transmitter has been ordered, and was scheduled to be received back on Oct. 31. The antenna is scheduled to arrive in early December. KVHP states that at that time, installation of the transmitter and antenna will commence, which may cause an early termination of analog broadcasting, although, in the DTV update filed with the FCC, they claim that analog broadcasts will continue through Feb. 17, 2009. So we will have to wait and see how this all plays out. KVHP has a granted construction permit to transmit a 1,000 KW ERP signal from the tower east-northeast of Lake Charles, and west-northwest of the Beaumont/Port Arthur area. The antenna will be mounted 1,038 feet high on a tower that is 1,289 feet AG. KVHP transmits FOX in 720 HD on the main channel and FOX in SD on the 29.2 sub-channel.

KITU channel 34 (digital channel 33), Trinity network affiliate (TBN), has constructed the final DTV facility broadcasting 500 KW from a tower 1,026 feet AG. KITU does hold a granted construction permit that will not expire until Aug. 7, 2011 to maximize the ERP to 1,000 KW. KITU transmits 5 SD channels of programming.

KUIL channel 64, a low-power station which uses a digital transmitter (K36ID) on a tower 20.53 miles away from the analog transmitter, has been carrying the FOX network, but will lose that affiliation after FOX moves to KBTV on Jan. 1, 2009. There have been reports that KUIL is actively pursuing an affiliation with the NBC network, but there has also been speculation that NBC will end up on a KBMT sub-channel. Official word from KUIL has been silent for a couple of weeks now, so there is a lot of uncertainty in the area. The owners of KUIL were the successful bidders in an auction conducted by the FCC which started on Nov. 5, 2009. They won the right to apply for a construction permit to build a digital transmitter on channel 43 at the same site as the analog transmitter for channel 64. This should help their case for getting a NBC contract. This will give them two low power digital transmitters 20 or so miles apart. This will greatly improve their coverage of our area.

The channel 36 digital transmitter has an ERP of 15 KW broadcasting from an antenna that is 525 feet AG. And the new application on digital channel 43 calls for a and ERP of 15 KW from an antenna 361 feet AG. At this time, K36ID transmits FOX in 720 HD on the main channel and FOX in SD on the sub-channel 64.1.

I have talked to the owner of low power KUMY channel 22, a My Network TV affiliate who holds a granted construction permit to move to a different tower nearer the center of our viewing area. He has stated to me that at that time, he will convert the station over to digital, although there is no application showing on the FCC Web site to have been submitted to do that at this time. The minor change to an existing station, which authorizes the station to move to the more centrally located tower, construction permit expires on May 3, 2009.

So, there you have it. That is what is happening here on the home front down here in my neck of the woods So keep your antennas reaching for the sky and as they say, stay tuned.