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KSNT Replaces 35 Year Old Transmitter

October 20, 2003
The Capital-Journal

No more fuzziness on "Friends." Better sound from "Oprah."

KSNT-TV expects viewers will notice a clearer picture and better audio next week as the station begins broadcasting through its new, $1 million transmitter. The unit, which compiles and amplifies the station's video and audio signals, will be turned on early Friday for testing and tuning.

"Depending on how that goes, we could be completely switched over to the new transmitter during the weekend," said Doug Overla, KSNT chief engineer.

The difference will be apparent to all viewers, whether watching via antenna or through cable, and Overla said the biggest improvement will be in the farther reaches of KSNT's coverage area -- approaching the Nebraska border to the north; Missouri to the east; Chase, Coffey and Anderson counties to the south; and Clay and Dickinson counties to the west.

The new transmitter won't increase the area that KSNT's programming reaches, but some households at the fringes will have better reception, he said.

"Over the last couple of years, the quality of the signal of the older unit has gone down a bit," said Keith Walberg, creative services director.

Doug Rosebrugh, of Wavelength Technologies, of Bridgenorth, Ontario, is helping to install the new transmitter. He said a 20- to 30-year lifespan is average.

"They did really well with that RCA at 35," he said.

Overla said he expects better sound quality because the transmitter is designed for stereo sound. The 1967 transmitter was made before stereo sound became standard for television. Also, RCA has been out of the television transmitter business for several decades, making it more difficult to get parts and service.

The more efficient transmitter also may save some electricity costs for the station, though Overla said he didn't know how much just yet. New air and water cooling systems were installed to keep the unit at the best operating temperature.

"We're hoping to save some money on the electricity," Overla said, noting the cost of electricity for transmission on the old unit averages about $9,000 per month.

Walberg said potential savings was secondary in the decision to upgrade.

"We're not really doing it to save money. We're doing it to be a better TV station," Walberg said.

Walberg said the project was approved last winter by KSNT owner Emmis Communications, of Indianapolis, and the $1 million price tag includes the unit and related installation costs. The new transmitter is in the basement of KSNT's building at 6835 N.W. US-24 highway.

"They didn't have to do this. We could have limped along another couple of years," Walberg said. "It's big for us. It's a big investment for a TV station to make."

The transmitter will continue to broadcast the station's analog signal -- KSNT also has been broadcasting a low-power digital signal since December -- and eventually will be converted to transmit a digital signal.

The station also recently began broadcasting its signal 24 hours a day. In September it began airing programming during the early-morning hours between 2 and 5 a.m.

KSNT and The Topeka Capital-Journal are convergence partners.