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KATC Chief Chats with TVB

KATC in Lafayette, La., is now sending out a full-power digital signal, just a little over a year after the FCC issued the station’s facilities construction permit. The migration required a new tower and transmitter facility.
“We hadn’t moved one shovel or dirt before that CP was issued,” said Andrew Shenkan, president and general manager of KATC, an ABC affiliate and one of 13 stations owned by Cordillera Communications in Duluth, Minn. “We got the construction permit on Sept. 29 of 2006.” The full-power signal from the 1,000 kW Harris digital transmitter and Dielectric stick commenced transmission Tuesday, Nov. 6. Previously, the station’s digital signal was going out via a low-power transmitter located at its studio in Lafayette.
“We were operating on a low-power footprint, basically for metro Lafayette, and not getting too far out of the city limits,” Shenkan said. The city and the surrounding area comprise DMA No. 123, but KATC also serves the nearby community of Lake Charles, which has no ABC affiliate of its own.
“At one time, we thought we were going to co-locate on a competitor’s tower,” but the arrangement fell apart, he said. “We had to fall back on another lease opportunity. We agreed to terms with the landowner and filed with the FCC. We had to erect an1,800-foot tower.”
The project cost “north of $6 million,” he said.
KATC decided not to use the tower supporting its analog stick, in part because of its proximity to the Gulf Coast and potential vulnerability to hurricanes. That tower is also south of Interstate 10, a demarcation where insurance rates skyrocket, Shenkan said.
“With storms like Rita, which really affected our marketplace, we felt we’d be better served going north of I-10,” Shenkan said.
The analog tower will be leased, and used for microwave relays, he said.
Shenkan said 7 percent of the TV households in Lafayette rely on over-the-air analog TV.
“I assume the digital number would be much greater,” at more like 10 to 12 percent, he said, because the prevalent DBS provider doesn’t carry local digital signals.
KATC originates news, in SD for the time being.
“The real first thing to do was to be standard digital,” Shenkan said. “The router’s next in line for replacement.”
He said he expected the station to start doing hi-def origination sometime in 2010-11.