Friday, February 13, 2009

Another problem with digital TV: translator transmitters in mountainous, isolated areas

Most of the rural Americans who will be unable to watch familiar television stations when the stations drop their analog signals live in the rural Western U.S., reports David Migoya of The Denver Post. And the reason is not what we have previously reported, the nature of digital signals; it's "because the aging signal relays they count on for programming won't work or will be turned off," Migoya writes.

"As many as two of every five of the receivers — known as translators — that relay free TV signals to areas that can't get them any other way will be affected, according to one expert, leaving screens dark no matter how well residents prepare their own sets for the upcoming digital transition," which will conclude on June 12, Migoya recounts. The nation has 4,030 licensed translators and probably 2,000 or so unlicensed ones, according to R. Kent Parsons, vice president of the National Translator Association, whom Migoya says is "regarded by the government and private sector as the leading expert in the field." He told the Post, "I don't really think people fully appreciate how big a problem this is going to be."

Migoya notes, "Translators can receive signals from other translators, in effect creating a daisy-chain web of relays that allows programming to reach miles further than a TV station could do on its own. They are especially necessary in mountainous areas where TV signals fight topographic obstacles." If you live in such terrain, you need to read this story. If you're a nearby journalist, you need to localize it. (Hat tip to Brian Depew of the Center for Rural Affairs.)

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