Thinking Inside the Box | Column | 8/13/2010
July 19, 2012
Hi, Ellis Bromberg with another video "Thinking Inside the Box." It's been a little over a year since all full-power broadcast TV stations switched from analog transmission to digital -- you remember all those promotions about converter boxes and government coupons and so forth. Well, through this year, the response to digital TV and its benefits - the gorgeous HD picture, new multicast channels - has been mostly very positive. Our programs have never looked or sounded better. But throughout this period, there has also been a group of our loyal viewers who have had diminished service: not cable or satellite subscribers, but some over-the-air viewers. About one-fifth of the audience in the Milwaukee area still relies on over-the-air television, and a group of them, who never had any problem receiving the old analog channel 10, have had difficulty receiving the new digital channel 10. What has been particularly surprising to these viewers is that they can usually receive all the other stations in town, including channel 36, but not channel 10. The reason is that channel 10 is now the only full-power station in Milwaukee that is operating on a VHF channel at a lower part of the broadcast spectrum - all the other digital stations in Milwaukee, including channel 36, are now operating on UHF channels. Now, in the old analog world, a VHF channel was considered a better option than a UHF channel: one reason, the power consumption is much lower for VHF than UHF. The channel allocations, by the way, were made by the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the broadcast industry. There's nothing really wrong with a VHF channel, it's just that it requires a different antenna than a UHF channel - and that's been the big problem. Here is an inexpensive antenna I brought from my home - it's attached to the small TV set I have in our basement - and if you look closely, you can see it's two antennas in one. This roundish antenna picks up the UHF stations, and it's relatively stationery. These two stick antennas pick up VHF signals, like channel 10, and you can see they're adjustable. You can extend them, or position them at different angles. And they tend to be more sensitive. Adjust the VHF antenna right and you've got a perfect signal, position it wrong and you have a blank screen. It's also a fact that a VHF rooftop antenna is better than one inside the house - but it's not like the old days when most people had rooftop antennas. When the country switched to digital, most stations were assigned UHF channels, and the antenna manufacturers responded by making UHF-only antennas, or products that optimized UHF and had an inferior VHF antenna. It's viewers who have those antennas who have been unable to get Channel 10, although they can get all the other stations, including Channel 36. Now, the simplest solution to this problem is to upgrade your antenna - and if you need advice on that please call the station at 414-271-1036 and ask for Kevin Kukowski. He's one of our engineering managers who's an expert on the situation. But we realize that upgrading an antenna is not possible for everyone, so we've been searching for other solutions here at MPTV. Beginning September 1, we're going to make some changes in our multicast lineups. Those viewers who cannot receive Channel 10 but can receive Channel 36 will have a new option to see programs that are broadcast on Channel 10. We will introduce a Channel 10 simulcast on Channel 36.2. That simulcast will not be in HD, but the same programs will air at the same times on Channel 10.1 and Channel 36.2. There'll be some other changes to the multicast lineups on both stations. MPTV actually offers nine unique channels, and beginning September 1, here's where you'll find all of them. Two additional notes: beginning September 1, there will be a new look to MPTV Weather on Channel 10.4. We're working with the national broadcast weather experts at Accu-Weather to bring you a new easy to read weather service with no commercials and some other regional and maritime features that other local and national weather channels do not provide. So be looking for that. And we will also be upgrading Channel 36.1 to HD in early 2011. You can still find the listings for all the channels here at mptv.org - and station members always have the details at their fingertips in Fine Tuning magazine. We'd love to hear how these changes are working for you - or whether there continue to be problems receiving any of our stations. Drop us a line on the Contact MPTV link on the website, or call the station, or send me a letter. As always, thanks for your support, and I'll be back next month with more "Thinking Inside the Box."