Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Albuquerque, NM
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A transmitter can easily cost between 300k to half a million depending on power levels and redundancy. Then add an antenna and transmission line. 50-100k, again power levels and antenna height. Now you need an exciter (frequency/modulator generator for channel) 30k, and digital video encoder another 30k. Now do you want to do HDTV? You then need a digital link to that encoder. That can be a fiber optic line, microwave digital studio link (most stations would do this..75-100k) or if you are really lucky the transmitter is co-located at the studio. In that case, some high quality coax. Less then $100, because you have to buy the spool of wire.. Now you are talking in the neighborhood of about half a million. But this mostly excludes what it takes to build out the equipment needed at the studio to pass along HDTV. You can always add a satellite downlink at the transmitter to pass the HD with a "switch" between the studio SD feed and the sat HD feed. (a way to cut costs)
But what if your station was a VHF and now you have a digital UHF frequency. It's likely that the current tower can not handle the extra load of a full power UHF antenna and transmission line. It's also likely that the current tower was built when the station went on the air. (1952-53?, if it's a VHF, mid-late 60's if UHF) So, if you are a V then you will need to build a new tower, thatâ€™s half a million to a million. But, if you are one of the many UHF stations and have not sold too much tower space to paging and FM then your tower should be able to handle the extra load. Maybe a little extra bracing in tower work.
So, if you are currently a UHF station then you are much better prepared then VHF would be. Another crux of being VHF. Even if your tower could handle another antenna. Most VHF towers in the Midwest (any place flat) are just at 1000ft or a bit less. WCIA's tower is about 900ft, while WICD's (UHF) is about 1340ft. You will need a lot of power to get out as far as WICD at only 900ft. Height is everything in UHF.
As far as WCIA, they are now officially broadcasting a DTV signal on air. In fact they began last Saturday on ch.48 in Champaign and ch.53 in Springfield. Be it at low power though. The primary channel is WCIA and the sub channel is the new UPN 49 that just started up. WCIA is using the digital signal to allow them to make available UPN 49 on the eastern side of the market, while the western side can pick up off air ch.49. WCFN 49 (new UPN station) was the repeater for ch.3 on the western side, but decided that making it a new UPN would help revenues. (donâ€™t blame them) Figuring that almost 80% of viewers have cable won't be bothered with the switch. This now means that the only way to get channel 3 (WCIA) is to get cable or a DTV tuner to pick up the digital signal now being broadcast. So you can thank the new "UPN 49" for bringing DTV to central Illinois. Otherwise the incentive to make the switch would have been on hold. BTW, only 480i on both primary and sub channel. No HD..
I don't know much about WAND ch 17. If they say may 1st then wait and see. In recent years the station has made quite a few upgrades, including master control. Did you notice the stereo signal light turned on a few years ago? Ch 23 WBUI has also made a huge investment in master control, a lot of automation, and a new transmitter facility with a whole new higher tower. Same height as ch 17 1290ft, FAA restrictions limited to building out to a full 2000ft.
As for WICD, no plans as of yet.. They are owned by Sinclair, need I say more? 60 tv stations, with half a million dollars per station to convert.. Under the old ownership it was thought that they might have beat Ch 3 to DTV. (A huge thing if you've always been a distant #2 in the market since day one) Mostly because they are UHF and the towers had almost no loading of FM's and paging. Also, WICD's transmitter is circa 1968 and was due to be replaced by a transmitter that would have done both NTSC and DTV at full power, as had been done at WICS in Springfield right before the sale of the two stations.. Now it looks like the old RCA transmitter will be around until NTSC is shut off for good. That's quite a long service life. If on long enough parts will become harder to get. Anyone know relay logic? Then I've got a transmitter for you!
Kidding aside, I think ch 12 WILL (brand spanking new studio to die for, who says PBSâ€™s donâ€™t have money? Well they did live in a pit for a long time) or WAND (less so) are your best bet to HDTV OTA. Or do what I want to do, move to some place that has OTA HDTV. :) At least for those here in Springfield, we can now get waivers for CBS and get the HDTV feed because we are now in a "white area" not covered by any in market CBS.
As you can tell, I know a bit about whatâ€™s going on here in Central Illinois. Thatâ€™s because I work at one of the local stations (not WICD) and get to talk to a lot of the people working on this stuff.
Wow, that was long.. Enjoy.