It’s about the rabbit ears, really. We’ve all been in one of those homes where they are watching your station on a pair of metal rods sticking up from the TV, and what you see on the screen is a little video and lots of random noise. And when you took away their analog signal, you suddenly took away the ability of the cheapskate to get free TV. That’s because what was left was not enough signal to make a digital picture even on a generation six converter box.
When it calculated power limits for replacement DTV stations, the FCC wanted to duplicate the coverage areas of analog stations. On paper, it did so pretty well. And it works for viewers with modest outdoor antennas. Most over-the-air viewers with older antennas saw their good analog pictures replaced by crisp new digital pictures.
What the FCC overlooked is the TV audience out there with substandard antennas getting substandard analog signals. When the DTV transition happened, these viewers were left at the bottom of the digital cliff with no pictures at all.
Power to the People
KFMB and KGTV require approximately 15kW ERP to duplicate their analog audience using digital according to parameters originally set-up by the FCC and documented by Hammett and Edison under contract. KGTV signed on this year with 20.7kW ERP. KFMB originally applied for an increase in power on channel 8 digital after their February transition and received approval in mid-July to run with 19.8kW ERP. They adjusted their transmitter without any need for changes to hardware.
The approximate 20kW figure was reached based on calculated adjacent channel protection for Los Angeles stations. As it is, the increase will barely be noticed since it’s just over 1dB. Whether future increases can be planned depends on national trends and more importantly, what happens in LA. Both stations want to increase power.
KFMB’s Director of Engineering, Rich Lochmann, says their current equipment will allow them to get up to 87kW, but they would ultimately like to go to 160kW.
Rich says, “The key words are ‘location, location, location’ and ‘antenna, antenna, antenna’. People just can’t get away with the cheapie passive antennas. With analog they would watch anything even if it was snowy or ghosty but with digital it’s there or not there. They don’t understand that nor like it.”