West Virginia NBC Affiliate Upgrades Transmission Tower

HUNTINGTON, W.V.—NBC affiliate WSAZ-TV, serving Huntington, West Virginia, and owned by Gray Television, is in the midst of upgrading its broadcast tower in order to improve signal propagation. A crew from ERI Electronics Research is now installing a new digital antenna at the top of the 1,064-foot tower in the city of Ona and should be done by the end of June.

Once completed, WSAZ's new antenna will reach more people with less power.

I n the planning stages for some time, WSAZ Chief Engineer Aaron Withrow said they are now in the midst of much-needed structural reinforcement to its broadcast tower and replacing an aging side-mounted antenna with a new ERI digital television antenna at the top of the existing tower. This will ensure that no part of the station’s signal is dropped or is not able to be received by some viewers in its assigned coverage area.

“We’re reducing a lot of the load from the NewsChannel 3 antenna,” Withrow said, and they are reducing the transmission power level as well. “We were at 720 kW ERP previously but with the new antenna it will be down lower and allow us to save on power costs by running at 590 kW.”

He said that once the work is completed by the end of the month, signal reception will be improved because “when you have a side-mount [antenna] you’re going to see some nulling [signal dropouts in parts of the coverage area], and that’s what we had. With the new upgrade, we won’t experience that problem.”

Withrow said the station uses a Thales solid-state transmitter and that the tower work will cause intermittent signal interruptions in June for viewers who receive WSAZ-TV over the air because the switch to the backup antenna reduces its signal to one-third of its normal power. Viewers that receive WSAZ’s signal via cable and satellite will not be affected by the work.

“During the times the tower crew is working at the top of the tower, we have to switch to a backup antenna that’s several hundred feet lower than our main antenna,” he said “This is for the crew’s safety.”

“We’re excited about providing an even stronger signal to many of our viewers,” said WSAZ Vice President and General Manager Matt Jaquint, in a statement. “As we do the work, we are making sure we minimize the inconvenience to our over-the-air viewers while maintaining the safety of the crew.”

The upgrade to WSAZ’s tower includes the installation of a new LED lighting system, which will improve visibility of the tower to pilots flying in the area at night. The tower also includes a high-definition WeatherCam mounted on the top that provides beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding city and is remotely controlled. The camera offers a live feed on the station’s website, which will play a 2:00 stream that can be refreshed.

WSAZ broadcasts its news and entertainment programming in HD and also offers digital subchannels 3.1 (Main WSAZ-TV programming / NBC) in HD (1080i) and 3.2 (WSAZ-DT2 / MyNetworkTV /This TV) in SD (480i).