After nearly three years waiting, the FCC approved September 3rd the KGTV channel 10 application to increase their ERP from 20.7 kW to 160 kW from atop Mt. Soledad.
Since the inception of 8VSB digital transmission, VHF television stations have faced issues with home over-the-air reception. Viewers are no longer willing to put up large outdoor antennas. If you go to Walmart or the Home Depot in search of a home antenna, you are likely to find only antennas large enough to receive UHF signals. VHF requires a larger dimension of metal, so its reception becomes incidental and highly disadvantaged. And these antennas are usually indoors behind a stucco wall metal reinforcement barrier. Engineers speak of VHF having a “building penetration” issue, but the real problem is the combination of small, non-resonant antennas and higher UHF radiated power.
The FCC had theorized that stations could use about one-tenth of their analog output to reach their intended audience. This works in the lab. However, what they apparently didn’t consider is how many viewers were watching analog TV with a snowy picture. When analog transmitters were shut down in 2009, TV stations received complaints from viewers of there no longer being service from over-the-air broadcasters. What they really meant was, “I got a lousy picture before, and now I get nothing because the signal level I receive on my indoor rabbit ears is below the digital threshold.”
Recognizing this issue, the FCC has been allowing VHF TV stations to “maximize” their signals; i.e., as long as their contours don’t collide with neighboring co-channel facilities, they can request to increase power levels to much higher levels. The old analog high-band VHF limit was 316 kW ERP, which is what both KFMB and KGTV output before 2009.
KFMB (TV), channel 8, also applied for an increase in power on the same day as KGTV, November 28, 2017, from their current 19.8 kW to 87.4 kW. That new power level, according to then RF Supervisor Rick Bosscher, was designed to allow them to use their existing transmitter, filter, and antenna to their maximum output. KFMB has not yet received their construction permit for that increase. Often, construction permit applications to increase signal contours near the Mexican border face long delays for coordination approval.