In a couple of weeks, television viewers who use an over-the-air antenna to watch WKAR-TV will need to re-scan their equipment in order to continue watching.
That re-scan doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes. Chief engineer Gary Blievernicht explains that WKAR is in the process of changing our antenna and our transmitter, "in order to change the underlying broadcast frequency that we transmit on."
All of this follows the broadcast incentive auction you heard about a couple of years ago. TV stations were invited to sell their spectrum back to the FCC to make room for frequencies that will be used by our wireless devices. Some stations, like WHTV, were sold in that auction and have gone off the air. WKAR didn’t sell its signal back to the government, but will still clear space in the spectrum by moving to a new frequency. We’re the first in the area, and one of the first in the country, to do so. Blievernicht continues that "the other stations in the Lansing area that will be changing channels are WLAJ and WSYM, so channel 53 and channel 47, they too are changing their channels...in 2019."
This project includes replacing the main broadcasting antenna, the transmission line that runs up the tower, the auxiliary broadcast antenna, and the replacement of our transmitters. Existing equipment wasn’t capable of moving to the new channels and was too old to be updated.
The recent ice storm damaged some equipment, forcing a conversion delay from May 1 to a new target date of May 9. Power is reduced in the meantime while work is underway.
Our FM stations broadcast from the same tower and will also operate at reduced power.
WKAR-AM isn’t impacted at all by this conversion because it transmits from a different location. Online audio and video services also won’t be affected.
The outgoing equipment will go to MSU Surplus in hopes of finding a buyer, though there is a plan for disposal if needed. According to Gary Blievernicht, this could well be the last major engineering project at WKAR for some time. "At the end of the day," he concludes, "we'll have some new transmitters and new antennas on the tower, so we'll be in pretty good shape for maybe 10, 15 years I hope."
We’ll keep you posted about when over-the-air viewers need to re-scan TV equipment, but again, the target date is May 9th.