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DTV station wises up, decides to ditch VHF


For years, we have been warning about the problems with DTV broadcasting on VHF; lower fractional bandwidth, increased interference from noise, & adjacent markets and the reluctance of customers to install significantly larger, performance compromised combo UHF/VHF antennas. Making matters even worse, some VHF stations have cut their ERP by 95% making a difficult situation impossible. Our predictions were that a huge percentage of the country will lose VHF DTV reception. Turns out the mess is far, far worse than anyone could have predicted. Nothing like launching an exciting new form of broadcasting on interference riddled, bandwidth challenged frequency assignments with tiny transmitters, right?

Much love to the station engineer who alerted us to this gem which lays it out bare. Its amazing stuff, and in case you don’t what to read the whole thing, here are the essential parts from the VHF broadcaster who has given up on a losing effort:

“Viewers report that they formerly received WVUE’s digital signal on channel 29 but have not been able to receive the Station’s digital signal on channel 8. The complaints that the Station has received are from viewers residing in all parts of the New Orleans market and are not limited to particular geographic areas or neighborhoods. In fact, several complaints are from viewers residing within a few miles of WVUE’s transmitter site. Station personnel have visited the homes of several disenfranchised viewers in an attempt to resolve the reception quality issues but were unable to receive the Station’s signal on the viewers’ digital tuners.

Louisiana Media respectfully submits that the current limitations on WVUE’s operations, and the concomitant loss of service to former viewers, are untenable from both a public service and a competitive perspective. Therefore, Louisiana Media proposes to restore digital service on WVUE’s pre-transition digital facilities on channel 29 at its previously authorized ERP of 660 kW. The higher-power channel 29 facilities will enable WVUE to reach viewers who received the Station’s digital signal prior to the Station’s early transition and who currently are unable to receive service on digital channel 8 due to the poor propagation characteristics of the assigned facilities.

Prompted by the many complaints WVUE has received, Louisiana Media performed a study comparing the signal strength of its assigned digital channel 8 facility to the signal strength of the higher power digital facilities of other stations in the market. Based on the study and the significant number and distribution of viewer complaints, Louisiana Media has determined that the effective radiated power of WVUE’s channel 8 digital facilities is not sufficient for the signal to be received by a material number of viewers located within its {viewing area}

The assumption was that ATSC (digital) broadcasting was up to 10X more efficient than analog, that transmitter power could be cut, electric bills would be slashed, all while maintaining the same coverage area. Yes, ATSC does offer some efficiencies, but not nearly enough to make up for the dramatic reduction in transmitting power that we’re seeing across the country. Finally, we have the FCC, the NAB and the broadcasting community beginning to acknowledge, just because its digital doesn’t mean you can reduce power 90% and have the same coverage area.

The good news is while we are waiting for the remaining 400 or so VHF DTV broadcasters to increase power and/or move to the UHF band, we will soon be shipping the Clearstream 5 high band VHF antenna. The C5 will be the most powerful compact VHF antenna ever offered, and can makeup on the receive side much of what is being lost on the broadcast side. The C5 will ship late June and retail for $119. – Thank me later