To the Editor: TV Booster responds to outages

Booster volunteers have lately encountered a spate of viewer inquiries about loss of TV stations rebroadcast by the TV Booster. The booster was originally established for the purpose of pulling in signals from TV broadcasters in Los Angeles and retransmitting them at the TV antennas used by viewers in the Indian Wells Valley. The TV Booster has since added signals from Public Broadcasting System satellites and TV stations in Ridgecrest and also signals from FM stations serving Los Angeles County and Las Vegas.

Last December introduced changes not only for Los Angeles TV stations but also for the TV translators here. The TV Booster warned that a few TV stations carried by the booster might appear to go off-air. In its annual letter mailed to supporters, the booster organization noted that when a station moves its TV signal to a new radio frequency (RF) channel, the viewer’s TV set would only know that that station’s signal was no longer at its former RF channel. To see that station again, the viewer must simply make the TV set do a full rescan to find the currently available channels. To guide viewers who need the help, the TV Booster has temporarily converted the use of its Channel 64.1 to give viewers help for doing a channel rescan.

The TV Booster forgot, however, to tell its viewers that winter brings rough weather causing TV signal disruptions. When electrical power goes off at the Booster’s mountaintop, all its stations go away, but when the power is restored up there, a station’s signal sometimes may not return if anything goes wrong inside the booster’s equipment. This area was struck by a windstorm on the year’s first weekend, causing a power outage.

Two of the booster’s transmitters, those hosting L.A. station signals of KTLA and KCOP (L.A. Channels 5 and 13), took damage from a suspected voltage surge of the power outage. The KTLA translator should be back in service before Monday Jan. 21. The KCOP signal must be temporarily moved to an alternate RF channel later in the week; viewers will have to perform a channel rescan.

The TV Booster will attempt to notify viewers when the replacement signal has become available. Viewers can use TV Booster’s poster service on Channel 64.1 and on its Facebook page.

Later the signal of KNBC (L.A. Channel 4) also began to misbehave. The picture or sound would briefly break up, and the signal could go away entirely for a time. It turned out that KNBC had moved broadcast operations to a different mountaintop for a couple of months, so that its antenna on Mt. Wilson could be modified. The backup KNBC transmitter occasionally gives degraded service, with dropouts, at the booster’s TV translator site. There is no alternative to toughing it out for the two months.

The channel changes instigated by the Federal Communications Commission are an initiative to sell off 14 of the RF channels used in TV broadcasting and to repack TV broadcast services into the remaining RF channels. One-third of TV Booster’s translators are being replaced with new equipment on new channels, at a cost of more than $100,000.

The good news is that most of that cost should be reimbursed by the FCC, and the new equipment will replace failing, antiquated equipment. Congress has funded the FCC to reimburse translator operators like the TV Booster for most of the costs involved. See the TV Booster website, www.iwvtvbooster.org, or its new page at facebook.com/TVBooster/.

Edward Middlemiss

Story First Published: 2019-01-25