Dielectric antennas to cease operations

SPX Communication Technology (formerly Dielectric Communications), based in Raymond, ME, is discontinuing its broadcast TV and radio antenna operations and will instead focus on more profitable areas of its manufacturing business for other industries (like medical and the military).

Dielectric has been a main supplier of broadcast antennas to network and local stations across the country for more than 50 years and, according to its website, has served more than 1300 broadcasters ever since. Among a number of high-profile Dielectric installations, the main mast antenna atop the World Trade Center’s 1 World Trade Center (the North Tower) was a 360ft Dielectric antenna, which had been rebuilt in 1999 by Dielectric Inc to accommodate digital television broadcasting. (That very mangled antenna is now on exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.) A Dielectric antenna also tops New York’s Empire State Building and is now home to most of the NYC-area broadcasters.

In a letter to customers on Friday, April 18, written by Mark Fichter, general manager of the Dielectric division (Broadcast and Wireless Antenna Operations), the company said that parent company SPX Communication would instead focus on its Flow Technology business, which helps streamline manufacturing and other types of operations.

The letter, obtained by Broadcast Engineering, states:

“After careful consideration, SPX has decided to discontinue the broadcast television and radio and wireless antenna operations of its Dielectric Communications business unit worldwide, due to extremely difficult global economic conditions in the broadcast marketplace,” Fisher wrote. “We have made the impacted Dielectric employees in the U.S. aware of this difficult decision.”

This clearly means layoffs, but no specific information was made available and no one was available for comment.

“While you are likely anxious to understand more specifics in how the discontinuation of Dielectric’s broadcast and wireless antenna operations may impact your company, we respectfully request your patience and understanding over the coming weeks as we work through the many complex steps associated with this decision. As a result, please be aware that Dielectric broadcast and wireless antenna personnel will be unavailable during the week of April 22nd as we focus on coordinating next steps. We anticipate that by the early part of the following week of April 29th that we will be able to directly respond to your inquiries.”

The letter also states that Dielectric broadcast and wireless antenna will continue to operate in a limited capacity through the end of June 2013, “with the primary focus on completing outstanding orders while also conducting the necessary steps to close the business.”

Dielectric said it would continue to accept orders on a limited basis for in-stock inventory items. However, it said, “orders for such items may only be accepted if payment is received up front and in full and delivery is taken on or before May 31st.”

An answering machine recording at the company’s headquarters confirmed as much.

Dielectric was founded in 1942 to support WWII radar systems and later migrated into designing and marketing TV broadcast transmission systems and related equipment. Much later on, in 2000, the company bought the assets of Harris Broadcast’s TV antenna business. For a time, it was the largest manufacturer of TV and FM broadcast antennas in the U.S. Jampro Antennas, in Sacramento, CA, is among the few that remain.