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Transmitter Failures Causing Early Analog Shutdowns, Power Reductions

Over the last few weeks I've been seeing more reports of TV stations shutting off or reducing analog power before the Feb. 17, 2009, date for ceasing regular analog TV broadcasting.

In some cases, stations using their analog channels for DTV need time to convert transmitters and test antennas. In other cases, transmitter failures this close to the analog shutdown make it impractical to order the parts and make repairs with the end of full power analog TV less than two months away.

A failed high power klystron or IOT in a UHF analog transmitter could cost $30,000 or more to replace. It may take over two months to obtain more specialized items, such as channel-specific RF components and antennas, making replacement before Feb. 17 impossible.

A quick news scan Thursday night found a story about WVUE in Louisiana switching off its analog transmitter Monday morning. The story quotes GM Joe Cook saying the results were positive, with viewer calls "amazingly light."

KPTS in Abilene is planning to shut off its analog service at 6 a.m. on Jan. 5 to clear space for a digital transmitter it is installing on Channel 8. In an Abilene Chronicle-Reflector article, KPTS Director of Technology said, “KPTS found it necessary to remove the analog transmitter to make room for a digital transmitter on Channel 8. Therefore, we are shutting down earlier than most stations to facilitate this. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to convert Channel 8 from analog to digital. We waited as long as we could to turn off the analog and still have enough time to accomplish the task.”

Stations in Redding, Calif., are also shutting off analog early. A article North State TV Viewers Urged to Get Their Digital Converter Boxes said KHSL, KNVN and KCVU were switched to digital Monday. Public TV Station KIXE switched off its analog signal in August. KIXE GM Myron Tisdel said, “It's been an interesting experience. I think it's been more complicated and has not been as easy as the federal government originally thought. ... That is why they [FCC] are making trips to those TV markets that have a high concentration of over-the-air viewers because they don't want to lose those people."

Laredo station KGNS said on its Web site that the local CBS affiliate KVTV shut off its analog signal a few weeks ago. The Web site urges KGNS over-the-air viewers to get converter boxes. KVTV had a “power surge” hit its analog transmitter, damaging it beyond repair. The story notes, “We are all in this together because all of us will be off analog signal February 17th and we encourage everyone to get their digital boxes and start watching digital television in the Laredo market.”

I know of other stations operating at reduced analog power until the shutdown due to major transmitter failures, but didn't see any of them mentioned in this week's news. Given the large number of analog transmitters out there that will be scrapped in two months, don't be surprised if we see more stations switching off analog early! This is in addition to the previously discussed early analog shutdown in Hawaii in January.

Read more of Doug Lung's RF Reporthere.