Ever had a hankering to see lots of broadcast facilities from northwest Pennsylvania? Us, too…which is why we’re just settling back into the chair here at NERW Central after a whirlwind couple of days in greater Erie. You’ll see those pictures here on Tower Site of the Week in due time, but in the meantime it’s time for your usual Friday fix of tower pictures. This week, we clear out the files from our August 2010 visit to New England by showing you the “after” pictures from two projects we’d been chronicling as they were underway a year or so earlier.
The AM site in the Oak Hill section of Newton, Massachusetts has long been a favorite of this column. In 2006, we showed you what it looked like “before,” when it was just WUNR (1600 Brookline) operating from two tall towers and a rundown building out here. That “before” actually came after a half-decade of NIMBY battles, and it was followed by three years of complicated feats of engineering. In early 2010, we showed you most of the “after,” with the moved-in 50 kilowatt WXKS (1200 Newton) and WRCA (1330 Watertown) packed into the tight footprint of the old WUNR facility alongside an upgraded WUNR itself. And here, we revisit that facility at the end of the cleanup: the dumpster outside was long gone, the last of the cable spools and boxes were out of the building, the temporary WUNR building out back had been hauled away, and this high-power AM facility was fully on the air. (It’s had a few tweaks since: the 1200 pattern has been modified, for one thing.)
But whatever coverage issues 1200 tried to address at its new site paled in comparison to the problems over at the other end of Newton around that same time. As we showed you when analog TV went away in the spring of 2009, NBC affiliate WHDH-TV (Channel 7) was all set to stay put on RF channel 7, moving from its old Larcan analog VHF transmitter to a shiny new Harris Platinum digital VHF transmitter right down the row of transmitters behind the glass doors on the second floor of the 1960s-vintage building on Tower Road.
In a market that was otherwise all-UHF (give or take the odd WWDP) after the transition, WHDH very quickly found that channel 7 wasn’t where it wanted to be, and it acted expediently to ask the FCC for relief. That relief came quickly, first in the form of an STA to return WHDH’s transitional DTV operation on channel 42 to the air, and then in the form of an all-out move to higher-powered operation on RF 42.
So out went that brand-new Platinum channel 7 transmitter, and in came a pair of Thales (Thomson-branded) IOT channel 42 transmitters filling the space where both channel 7 transmitters once sat. Out, too, went the partial wall that surrounded the old Larcan, opening up a much bigger area on the other side of the glass. The result? After struggling at first with VHF reception issues on 7, WHDH now enjoys one of the best DTV signals in the market. (And it’s lucky it acted quickly: under pressure to try to free up even more UHF spectrum for non-TV use, the FCC hasn’t been as willing to allow other stations with VHF reception issues to make similar UHF moves lately.)
Thanks to Grady Moates and John Mullaney for the tours!
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Next week: Previewing Tower Site Calendar 2013