Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
When you have as many FM and TV stations as you have in a big market like Dallas-Fort Worth, and when all of them need tall-tower space in more or less the same area, you end up with a lot of towers.
And when you add in the DTV conversion and repack, and the need for full-power aux facilities for most of the FM signals, eventually you need even more towers – which is why the Cedar Hill tower farm south of Dallas has sprouted more sticks in recent years, including one site a few miles south of the main cluster of towers that are packed tightly along West Belt Line Road.
The “Cedar Hill South” tower, 1635 feet tall, went up in 2000 on Tar Road, about three miles south of Belt Line and east of US 67, relieving some of the DTV conversion pressure on the “Milton Tower” that we showed you last week.
The three big UHF independent stations that had been on Milton – KTXA (21), KDFI (27) and KDAF (33) – all built out here with both analog and digital signals, joined by TBN’s KDTX (58) and Univision’s KUVN (23) and KSTR (49).
In more recent years, stations have come and gone from here – KDFI is now owned by Fox and has only an aux here, for instance, while two more stations, CBS’ KTVT (Channel 11) and PBS outlet KERA-TV (Channel 13) moved here from an older tower to the north along US 67, which we’ll see in a moment.
There’s also a big FM aux site here, using a panel antenna just below the candelabra up top, and it’s home to auxes for KERA (90.1) and sister KKXT (91.7), Radio One’s KBFB (97.9), Univision’s KLNO (94.1) and Entercom’s KLUV (98.7), KJKK (100.3), KVIL (103.7), KRLD-FM (105.3) and KMVK (107.5).
We only got to peek at one room here, the CBS room that has several generations of transmitters for KTXA (repacked now to RF 18 from 29) and KTVT (on RF 19), which we saw in the midst of some repack work.
But we can show you something else cool here: while we didn’t get in to the KERA-TV transmitter room, we did see the enormous filter it requires – being on RF channel 14, at the bottom edge of the UHF band, there’s a much more stringent filter requirement than for most other UHF frequencies.
Where was KERA (and KTVT) before the Cedar Hill South facility went up? A couple of miles up along US 67, at a site that dates back to about 1964. That’s when channel 11 (originally KFJZ-TV) moved here from Fort Worth, at a studio/transmitter site that was later claimed by I-30 construction. For many years, KTVT was a prominent independent superstation owned by Gaylord, until the mid-1990s affiliation shuffles turned it into a CBS O&O. KERA, the public TV station, moved down here a few years later on from – well, we’ll show you more on its history next week.
Today, the old KTVT/KERA site sits empty, right next to the Cedar Hill schools complex, a silent reminder of earlier analog days here.
Remember why we were down here? If you read last week’s installment about Cedar Hill, you might recall that we were headed this way for a vendor party at the 2019 Radio Show – and it was taking place at one of the rooms in the facility known as the “CBS FM Tower” or, in current American Tower parlance, “Cedar Hill North.”
It’s not exactly “north,” except by comparison to the old KTVT tower (“Cedar Hill East”) or to its sister site, Cedar Hill South. It’s actually part of the main cluster of Cedar Hill towers, but it’s the one tower in that group that isn’t accessed off Belt Line, reached instead off some side streets to the south, across US 67 from the old KTVT site.
What do we have inside this site? Several LPTVs are here on this 1731-foot tower, but it’s mainly an FM site, with a big panel antenna all the way up that’s shared by the public radio stations we’re visiting, KERA (90.1) and KKXT (91.7), as well as by Radio One’s KBFB (97.9) and by the stations for which it was built, the former CBS (now Entercom) KJKK (100.3), KRLD-FM (105.3) and KMVK (107.5). (Two others in the cluster, KLUV 98.7 and KVIL 103.7, are at the Cowboy site we featured last week.)
About KERA and KKXT: we’re down here not only for some cold cuts and beer, but also to see the Rohde and Schwarz liquid-cooled transmitters that recently went into service here at the Cedar Hill North site. It’s a quiet, very efficient installation, and mighty compact, too!
Speaking of Cowboy, there’s a great view to the west here of the candelabra that crowns that site, as well as the tower next door to Cowboy on Belt Line that’s home to KAZD (Channel 55) and several iHeart FM aux facilities.
So let’s leave Cedar Hill with some wide shots (remember, you can always click on images here to make them bigger!)
On the left is a view from the old KTVT site along US 67, and here’s what you see from left to right: off in the distance at far left is the “Susquehanna” FM tower, home to Cumulus’ KSCS (96.3) and KPLX (99.5), and then the “Hill Tower” candelabra that’s home to WFAA (Channel 8) and KDFW (Channel 4), and now also to KDFW sister station KDFI (Channel 27). The original “Hill Tower” site, now a shortened aux, can be seen to the right of that. At center is the two-tined candelabra for NBC’s KXAS (Channel 5) and KXTX (Channel 39). To the right of that is “Cedar Hill North,” and to the right of that are lined up the three big towers along Belt Line, Milton, Cowboy and the KAZD tower.
And the dusk photo at right shows the view from Cedar Hill North, looking north and east: we see the Hill Tower, the KXAS tower, a shorter tower along Belt Line for KNON (89.3) and some FM auxes, and then Milton, Cowboy and KAZD.
One more day remained for us in Dallas after this, and we’ll show you some of that in next week’s installment!
THE RADIO HISTORIAN’S CALENDAR IS OUT!
This is a special year for radio, and The Radio Historian is celebrating its 100-odd-year history in the 2022 calendar The calendar features images originating from original black-and-white photographs, digitally remastered and colorized to replicate the original scenes as accurately as possible. You can order it from us here.
And when you buy the Radio Historian calendar, don’t forget to buy the Tower Site Calendar — perfect in any room. We’re marking the 20th anniversary of the Tower Site Calendar, and we’re also celebrating the 100th anniversary of America’s radio boom in 1922, when the industry really took off and stations erupted all over the country. Our calendar showcases the survivors from the Class of 1922, which grew into some of America’s biggest radio stations. It’s nearly off the press and will ship in time for Christmas. Order yours here.
And check out our other great merchandise!
And don’t miss a big batch of Texas IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: KERA, Dallas (and some early TV history)