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TV Translators Left Behind

Reports of TV translator angst are emerging. Low-power TV stations and translators are not subject to the digital transition deadline and may become defunct when analog signals are shut off next February.

Folks who get over-the-air TV via translators in Lyon County, Nevada, will be out of luck come Feb. 17, 2009. The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that county commissioners there couldn’t find the money to repair translators, much less upgrade them. The county operates four translators carrying at least five stations out of Reno. A county official estimated the cost of upgrading the translators would be from $8,000 to $14,000. The county originally maintained the translators as part of its emergency alert system, which has since been replaced by a reverse 911 system.

In and around Idaho Falls, Idaho, KIDK-TV viewers using digital-to-analog converter boxes are already experiencing reception problems. KIDK, the Fisher Broadcasting-owned CBS affiliate in the market, is carried on around 20 translators. The station is also broadcasting digitally on Channel 36, whereas its analog assignment is Channel 3, which transits rough terrain better than the UHF digital counterpart. Gary Smith, KIDK chief engineer, said the station expected to lose about 8 percent of its analog audience in the transition.

KIDK reported that one disenfranchised viewer said, “We feel like something is being stolen from us.” The station will temporarily shut off its analog signal Dec. 16.

The Hawaiian island of Kaua'i will also be without digital TV signals after Jan. 15, when the state’s TV stations will end analog transmission. Hawaii is shutting down early to avoid interfering with the nesting cycle of its native Hawaiian dark-rumped petrels. The birds nest near where the islands’ analog transmitter towers are destined to come down.