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Grass Valley Helps Fill WPBN's DTV Gaps

Thomson Grass Valley Elite
WPBN-TV has been providing television service to this part of Michigan since 1954 on Channel 7. The station is now owned by Barrington Broadcasting Co. and we are the NBC affiliate here. We serve a rather unique television market area, as our particular DMA encompasses 25 counties, and spans the northern portion of Michigan's Lower Peninsula and the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula. Historically we accomplished this by using a second VHF transmitter operating on Channel 4 located in Cheboygan, Mich. It is licensed as WTOM and has served as a satellite to WPBN-TV. Over the years, we've established the collective identity of TV 7&4.

In WPBN-TV's earlier analog days, we used a full-power RCA G-Line transmitter for operation on Channel 7. When we began the switch to digital in 2003, we did so with the help of a Thomson Grass Valley Ultimate UHF solid-state transmitter. It was running at low power to provide DTV service on Channel 50, basically for our city of license. This was a first step, as not many viewers in our coverage area had digital TV sets at the time, and also because we were not really sure how we wanted to build out our full-power digital transmission system for the future.


To meet the FCC extension for transitioning to full digital broadcasting, we added a new Thomson Grass Valley Elite solid-state transmitter that now serves as a translator operating at 500 W ERP under a Special Temporary Authorization. This was necessary to cover the southern part of our viewing area which suffered from coverage gaps that resulted once our analog signal was shut down. There are a substantial number of television households in that region that would have been without our signal if it weren't for this installation. One of the big factors in selecting the Elite transmitter was knowing that we had the option of increasing the power level, if needed.

During the past five years, we've really come to appreciate the Ultimate's liquid-cooling architecture and the transmitter's hot-swappable exciter modules, which have allowed us to perform transmitter maintenance in much less time than it used to take with our older analog transmitter.


We expect that the new Elite transmitter, which includes Thomson Grass Valley's real-time digital adaptive pre-correction technology, will make system operation even more failsafe. It should also make my life easier.

Throughout our digital transition, we've relied on the Thomson Grass Valley product line to keep us on the air. A transmitter has to be reliable or we can't reach our audience. Thomson Grass Valley understands what it takes to make a reliable transmitter and in doing so has helped ensure our success as a broadcaster that thousands of viewers can depend on. We'll continue to use Thomson Grass Valley transmitters because they keep us on the air, at any power level we require, in the most efficient way.

Gary Clough has served as transmitter and studio engineer at WPBN-TV since 1999. He may be contacted

For additional information, contact Thomson Grass Valley at 800-547-8949 or