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KNPB - Transmitting digital via repeaters

KNPB currently broadcasts its analog signal on Channel 5 in Reno, NV, and reaches the capitol, Carson City, through the use of an analog translator on Channel 15. The station serves more than 200,000 people in its coverage area.

KNPB broadcasts a show called Wild Nevada.

The station recently began broadcasting a digital signal to Reno on Channel 15, necessitating a channel move for its analog translator. A channel search located Channel 29 as an alternative for KNPB's analog signal in Carson City, but the station's Thomson LGT Type 387/564 translator was old and no longer supported, and not suitable for retuning to the new channel. KNPB funded 75 percent of a $215,712 project to purchase a new translator and related master control and test and monitoring equipment. They received a PTFP grant for the balance of the project costs.

Making way for digital

The need for an analog translator during the digital transition may not be readily apparent, but the new analog transmitter serves several important functions in the station's overall digital plan. First, it replaces failing analog equipment to continue analog service to an area unserved by another signal. Second, replacing the translator opens the door for KNPB to provide digital service to Carson City by making Channel 15 available for an on-channel repeater transmitting the station's digital signal. Carson City is within KNPB's Grade B contour, but is currently shielded from the station's primary transmitter by the mountains. Serving this area is especially important since Carson City represents 21 percent of KNPB's viewing audience.

KNPB is currently transmitting a digital signal to Reno using a borrowed low-power transmitter. The station is in the process of buying an Axcera transmitter. When the new transmitter goes on air in March 2003, the station will use the low-power transmitter as an on-channel repeater to extend its digital signal to Carson City.

As of right now, the FCC hasn't established any rules governing translators, so there is no way to get licensed for one. KNPB is testing the on-channel repeater to demonstrate that it's a suitable method for providing digital service to shadowed areas.

The station will use the low-power digital transmitter until the FCC makes a ruling on the subject and then plans to replace the borrowed transmitter with a new digital transmitter to use as a permanent on-channel repeater for Carson City. Due to the shielding from the mountains, the Carson City signal would offer little or no interference to KNPB's primary signal in Reno. KNPB's experiment with an on-channel repeater may provide a new option for stations facing the challenge of extending digital service to shadowed areas.

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