The complete answer would seem to be that translators SHOULD result in greater advertizing revenues for the station that uses them. Don't cable systems do this for broadcasters? If translators paid for themselves that way, there'd be no problem. Bert -------------------------------------------- For rural West, DTV may be lost in translation U.S. digital transition could black out areas that use translators for TV reception Dylan McGrath (03/26/2007 9:00 AM EDT) URL: http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=198500398 Many Americans are aware that the looming broadcast television transition from analog to digital in February 2009 will render legacy analog TV tuners useless without a converter box. Far fewer are aware that the digital transition could have the unintended consequence of eliminating over-the-air TV broadcast to some parts of the country, especially in the rural West. Millions of rural dwellers in the western United States--particularly in states with expanses of open land, such as Colo- rado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming--owe their TV reception to translator stations, which relay broadcasts from metropolitan areas. A translator station acts as a full-duplex repeater, capturing a transmission and then broadcasting it on a different band (either UHF or VHF). Some 5,000 translators are in use today in the United States, according to the National Translator Association (NTA), a trade group that serves owners of translators and advocates the preservation of free over-the-air transmission of TV and FM radio signals. Most translators are owned and operated by private TV stations, but some are overseen by community cooperatives, rural-government entities, public TV stations or universities. For now, translator stations, as well as low-power TV stations, are specifically exempted from the digital TV transition mandated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and set by Congress to begin on Feb. 17, 2009. But since many translators are nonprofit--and in some cases money-losing--ventures, there is a growing fear that some will not be able to make the required investments in equipment to receive, convert and rebroadcast digital signals following the transition. "A lot of [translator stations] are being operated by community groups that don't have a lot of money to plow into new equipment," said NTA counsel George Borsari, a Washington-based attorney. TV stations, meanwhile, operate translators because they want to reach a larger audience in rural areas, said Gerry Kaufhold, a principal analyst at market research firm In-Stat. But the television stations do not receive additional advertising revenue from the outlying areas that the translators help them reach. Privately owned translators "are basically operated as a public service," Kaufhold maintained. "They cost the TV station money." According to Karl Voss, an engineer with KPNX-TV in Phoenix, community cooperatives sprang up in the 1960s to fund translators. But as cable has become available in more areas and as satellite services have emerged, Voss said, the cooperatives have become less important. Those that lack the funding or the community support to invest in equipment upgrades for the digital transition could either "go dark" or be offered to the metropolitan TV stations they carry, he said. Voss estimated the cost of upgrading a translator to receive and broadcast a digital signal at between $5,000 and $25,000, depending on such factors as the translator's physical location and the age of its existing equipment. That may not seem like a lot. But since most translators are not money-making propositions, "it's a really tough thing for the co-ops to have the money to keep up and maintain the equipment," he said. Forcing even a small number of established translators to go dark, presumably leaving viewers cut off from any over-the-air TV broadcast, would be "a political cherry bomb," said In-Stat's Kaufhold. In Arizona, he noted, about 30 percent of the population lives outside the main metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Tucson, and many of them presumably get their TV and radio from translators. Over time, he said, it would make sense for all translators to go digital, but that would likely take years and cost millions. "The FCC is probably going to have to have grandfathering, where they leave some of the analog in place," he said. But Voss said that "it doesn't make a whole boatload of sense" to continue translating into analog, because as consumers replace their aging TVs they will buy digital models that won't be able to receive the translated signals. "The translators owned by [TV] stations, I am sure, will be converted," Voss said. "I am not so sure about the translators owned by co-ops and communities." Should the FCC or the broader federal government help financially strapped translators finance the new equipment and upgrades needed for the digital broadcast transition? "The rules exist to keep the translators alive," Voss said, but "the financing is a different thing. I am not sure that the government should be financing those translators--then you get into a TV tax sort of deal, and that's not the way to go." NTA counsel Borsari said he was not aware of any government proposals that would provide translators with financial support for making the transition. The FCC is reviewing translator operator requests for digital companion channels. But Voss sees a flaw in the FCC policy: If two or more translator operators request the same digital companion channel, it is put up for auction. "You really should have some sort of coordination out there so that this doesn't all get bottled up and sent to the FCC," Voss said. "A lot of the decisions are being made by people that don't have to deal with low-power TV stations or translators"--in other words, by Washington insiders--rather than by the affected communities. The NTA's position is that an auction in the case of mutually exclusive claims on a channel would be inappropriate, Borsari said. But if the FCC follows its typical operating procedures, he said, it will likely open a window of opportunity for stations to work out such issues among themselves before proceeding to an auction. For Borsari, the difficulties of the DTV transition are personal. For three years, he's been receiving digital broadcast TV in his home. He said reception remains "terrible" and requires an outside antenna. All material on this site Copyright 2007 CMP Media LLC. All rights reserved. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways: - Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at FreeLists.org - By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.