Monday, March 09, 2009

Rural areas losing TV when translators go dark

One of the problems faced by rural areas in the digital television transition is that translator stations, which deliver signals to mountainous and isolated regions, require digital conversion too. We covered this issue in February, but since then a number of stations have dropped their analog signals and translators have gone dark.

Howard Berkes
of National Public Radio reports, "While converting to digital costs $1,000 or less, some translators are so old and decrepit that upgrading or replacing the translator antenna itself — or a group of translators — can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars." John Nichols of Kit Carson County, Colo., said the county decided not to convert its translators because its "equipment was old and worn out, and it was going to cost $300,000 or $400,000 to replace it."

The loss of television reception can cut off the primary source of emergency information. In Bergton, Va., which relied on a translator that went dark Feb. 17, the only other local news source available for emergency notices is a radio station that only operates during daylight hours. Tracey Jones, manager of Harrisonburg, Va.'s WHSV, the station that went dark in Bergton, says subsidizing satellite service might be more economical. "It would definitely make more sense, in some cases, than building this huge, costly infrastructure to serve a very small number of people," she said. "I guess the American people would have to decide. Is TV a luxury? Is it a necessity? And is that something we would ever consider subsidizing?" (Read more)

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