KPBS Signs Off La Jolla TV Translators

On February 15, Leon Messenie took the elevator to the top of 939 Coast Boulevard across the street from the La Jolla Cove Park and turned off the power to his two analog TV translators, perhaps for good.

K59AL and K67AM have been broadcasting with less than 2kW ERP from downtown La Jolla since at least June 1974, according to current FCC records. Messenie, now Director of Engineering, remembers that the translators have been there since before he started as a bench technician with KPBS in May 1981.

The site offered to fill the signal for the patrons of KPBS who couldn’t receive the signal by antenna because of Mt. Soledad shadowing the main signal from their channel 15 UHF analog signal on Mt. San Miguel. (At one time, KNSD had a similar fill-in translator on channel 62 at the top of Mt. Soledad.) They took a Time Warner Cable feed as video and audio source. At one time, K59AL and K67AM were at different locations, but they lost their lease on the alternate building, according to Messenie.

He looked for a displacement DTV channel for the La Jolla translators, but when he applied for channel 15, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department asked for the entire 6 MHz wide channel as a new land mobile band, and the FCC formally agreed last year, citing support for Homeland Security. Then he filed for channel 38. During international coordination, Mexico objected, then it suddenly appeared occupied as XHAS-DT from Tijuana.

Messenie says that Verizon is now ready to take over the 700MHz bandwidth they purchased by auction years ago. “They have been very supportive. Verizon was working with our Washington DC legal firm and even wrote a letter to the FCC when we were waiting to hear back from the FCC. They were on our side trying to get channel 38.  Then Mexico fired up on 38 and it was all over. Eventually all they could say was that they now had their 700MHz equipment in place and were ready to start testing. They worked with me until I could get our ducks in a row for turning off the translators. Once our Audience Service department was ready for the call I shut off the translators. Verizon was very nice throughout the whole ordeal.”

KPBS licensee San Diego State University said in their STA filing for a dark channel that they will continue to pursue a replacement digital allocation. Meanwhile, reaction to the shutdown resulted in four calls during the first two weeks of being off-the-air.