January 22, 2009

Improvements for tv tower still up in the air

The future is uncertain for the TV translator tower, which is operated by the Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the city of Beulah. The Chamber of Commerce canvassed the citizens of Beulah in the late ’60s to raise money for the translator, according to Darold Benz, former mayor of Beulah.

The operating expenses in those early years were also covered by freewill donations. The Chamber set up a special account at the local bank and people donated to it, Benz said. The system went through a major upgrade in the late ’70s or early ’80s, according to Benz.

When cable TV came through the area the chamber had to buy a franchise license to run the translator. These days the city puts money in the budget for the upkeep of the system. The chamber still holds and maintains the license and the city pays for maintenance and upgrades. The translator picks up Channels 5 and 12 out of Bismarck, then rebroadcasts them on Channels 7 and 9.

In 1996 Congress authorized the Federal Communication Commission to distribute an additional broadcast channel to each broadcast TV station in the country, so they could start a digital broadcast channel while continuing to broadcast in analog. Congress later mandated that all broadcast TV must be in digital after Feb. 17.

That means another upgrade is required for Beulah’s translator. An upgrade that might not work.

"We don’t know if it’s going to work," said Larry Rosnow of Roughrider Electric, who has been doing the maintenance on the current facility. "There’s no range to (the digital signal) out here in the Badlands.

"I tried (to pick up a signal) off the air with just a TV and it wouldn’t

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