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Broadcasters, FCC Restore Communications; NAB Distributes Radios, TVs

Michael Fisher, Paxson Communication regional director of engineering in Denver, was kind enough to e-mail me an update on what he and Paxson were doing to help broadcasters and residents recover from Hurricane Katrina. Paxson's New Orleans station, WPXL is on the air and is broadcasting programming from the local NBC affiliate, WDSU, which was reported last week as having been knocked off the air by Katrina. Many New Orleans residents were evacuated to Houston. The Paxson station there, KPXB, is broadcasting news from WDSU for two hours in the morning and five hours in the evening.

Michael described Paxson's recovery efforts after the storm:

"Paxson Corporate Engineering started mobilizing Tuesday after Hurricane Katrina swept through the New Orleans area," he said. "We put together a team of six people, from as far away as Denver, and headed to New Orleans. We also brought with us a four man tower crew, as we knew our microwave dishes had been knocked out of alignment." Trees were cleared from the driveway to gain access from the transmitter site. The fuel supplies were running low and the team brought 650 gallons of diesel fuel, Paxson.

"We aligned our TVRO dish to receive the WDSU satellite feed and put WDSU on the air at 1 p.m. local time. We re-aligned the microwave dishes, and on Friday started routing the WDSU feed through our master control facility. We made two trips to Baton Rouge to get more fuel for the generator, bringing the total fuel brought in to nearly 2000 gallons. Working with Clear Channel, which has radio stations on the tower, Shell Oil and FEMA, we now have a local source for fuel that Clear Channel is transporting to the site."

As reported in TV Technology's NewsBytes, the FCC is also helping with the recovery, setting up special phone numbers and working on weekends. See the FCC's Hurricane Katrina Emergency Information Web page for more information. Last week the FCC reminded video programming distributors that they must make emergency information accessible to people with hearing or vision disabilities.

NAB partnered with the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross to deliver battery operated radios to hurricane victims. NAB also worked with Louisiana and Mississippi broadcasters to distribute 1,300 battery-operated handheld TV sets to public safety officials assisting with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. These 5-inch analog sets were purchased by NAB from St. Louis-based GPX.

"Some of our officers affected by the flooding are still without electricity in their homes and have lost access to important information from local broadcasters," said Dave Young, executive director of the Louisiana State Troopers Association. "The donation of battery-operated TVs will help law enforcement officials stay connected with their communities and help our citizens through this difficult period of recovery," NAB has a link to the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters Message Board for help with equipment on its Web site. There is also a Broadcaster Stories page on the Web site. While most of the stories relate to relief drives and other fund raising efforts, there is a section offering a snapshot of the affected stations' efforts to stay on the air during the Hurricane and subsequent flooding. The Society of Broadcast Engineers has information from equipment manufacturers, engineers and integrators offering help on its Web site.

If you're reading this as you work to restore broadcast or wireless services after Katrina, I'm sure you're quite busy. However, if you can find the time, please e-mail me at describing the challenges that you are facing and noting any assistance that you might need from fellow broadcast or wireless engineers. From the comments I received to last week's Katrina story, I know that RF Report readers are interested in hearing your story and want to help!