Monday, October 29, 2007

Planning to Survive the Transition

When the FCC started the transition to DTV they assigned analog full-power stations a companion DTV channel. WWNY channel 7's DTV assignment was UHF channel 35. We were assigned the maximum power output of 1000Kw. The assignment was suppose to replicate what is known as the Grade-B service contour of the analog station, but the 1000Kw power cap actually prevented that from happening.

Because our channel 7 analog antenna is situated on the top of our tower (and we were required to operate both analog & DTV transmitters for the transition) we had to mount the channel 35 antenna on the side of the tower. That placement created a null in our coverage, so a directional antenna was utilized to help make-up for the null. The end result is that operating on UHF channel 35, with a side mount, the power cap, and a directional antenna only allows us to serve 80% of what had been channel 7's analog Grade-B service area. UHF frequencies also require high power consumption to replicate the same territory as a VHF frequency and are more affected by the terrain and weather conditions.

It had always been part of the FCC plans in the transition to allow stations to return one of the frequencies assigned to the station for use during the transition. Even though United Communication Corporation invested over a million dollars in channel 35 transmission equipment, we always had planned to revert back to channel 7 for final DTV operations. We could re-use the top-mounted omni-directional antenna and could operate with a less energy consuming transmitter. We also could gain back some of the service area lost from that UHF assignment.

Unfortunately as it now stands that is not the case. The final channel assignment table does allow WWNY to revert back to channel 7, but with the technical parameters assigned to channel 35. Friday was an important day in the life of WWNY-DT and the public we serve. On Friday we submitted an application to amend our assignment, to better replicate the analog Grade-B contour. Since it is a goal of the FCC for stations to continue to serve the public they always have, and since this amendment will not adversely affect anyone we are confident we will receive it. It is just another challenge we faced in the transition to 100% digital operations.

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