A Fairbanks broadcasting company is building a new tower in Delta Junction as part of a project to convert its television signals there from old-style analog to digital. Tanana Valley Television also plans to build another tower near Healy, to transmit a digitized signal in that area.
Most of us were introduced to digital television five years ago, when TV stations stopped broadcasting in analog and we all had to either buy a digital television or an analog-to-digital converter box.
The conversion had a big impact on the television industry, says Bill St. Pierre. He’s president of Fairbanks-based Tanana Valley Television Company.
“The world of television has changed in the last 10 years,” he said, “and it’s still in transition.”
Digital technology allowed high-power TV stations like those operated by Tanana Valley Television to among other things broadcast with much higher-definition audio and video. But the federal law that required the conversion didn’t require TV stations to broadcast a digital signal to areas that are out-of-range of their main transmitters. St. Pierre says, the digital technological leap didn’t make it out to those outlying areas.
“It hasn’t happened in Delta yet,” he said. “It hasn’t happened in Healy yet.
But it’s about to happen. St. Pierre’s company has begun work on a 120-foot tower in Delta that when completed will be used to broadcast over-the-air digital TV signals – signals that are received with an antenna at home.
St. Pierre says his company also will begin building another tower in Healy, probably in the fall.
The towers will enable Tanana Valley Television to meet the federally mandated Sept. 1st, 2015 deadline for TV stations to convert their translator signals to digital. Translators are smaller, automated stations in outlying areas that receive the main signal and then rebroadcast it, often on a different channel.
St. Pierre’s company operates Fairbanks’ Fox and CBS network affiliates. But St. Pierre says KTVF, the NBC affiliate, will also use the tower. He says its location on a ridge just east of Delta will enable the translators to receive and transmit signals much better than they do now in their present location. And because the translator will be digitized, it could broadcast all those signals over one channel, each separated by a decimal point.
“So we pick up KTVF, we pick up Fox 7, we pick up CBS 13, we put them all into one transmitter and now people can watch 11.1, 11.2 and 11.3 and they’ll be watching Fox 7, News 13 and KTVF.”
St. Pierre says Tanana Valley TV also has talked with KUAC TV General Manager Keith Martin about using the new tower. He says it would improve residents’ reception of KUAC’s three channels, 9.1, 9.2 and 9.3.
Martin says he hasn’t yet decided on converting KUAC’s translator signal.
On the down side, the conversion to digital will mean all those over-the-air television viewers who’ve been holding out with their old analog sets will have finally have to buy converter boxes or digital TVs.
On the up side, Delta City Administrator Mike Tvenge says the new tower would be a lot easier for him and TV station engineers to get access to than the translators’ present location. That’s about 20 miles south of town on a remote, wind-blown ridge on the Army’s Donnelly Training Area.