Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What’s behind Channel 7 freeze-up?

Defective NBC channel agitates some Cox customers

Esther Ochsman's television screen was stuck on the face of a male newscaster a couple weekends ago when Channel 7—the NBC affiliate—just froze up. And the channel didn't flip back into motion for days.

Her TV wasn't broken and neither were those of other Cox Communications customers in the Wood River Valley experiencing the same problem.

Doug Armstrong, general manager of KTVB-Boise and KTFT-Twin Falls, said the multiple-day freeze was a "one-time thing," occurring because the signal was purposefully cut. He said the channel had to be shut down to switch out relay equipment and upgrade from analog to digital.

But Ochsman said she's been experiencing other problems of pixelation for the past year or two.

Armstrong explained the reason for this intermittent problem.

He said the NBC signal is first received in Boise, where the local programming is inputted and the signal is then transmitted to KTVB-Boise and KTFT-Twin Falls. He said the signal is sent from Twin Falls to a Jerome transmission station located about 70 miles away from the Sun Valley COX receiver on Bald Mountain.

He said the Jerome station sends a circular antenna signal for the same distance in all directions. And 70 miles is on the fringe of a clear signal. Plus, the Baldy receiver is about 3,000 feet higher in elevation than the Jerome station.

He said the distance and elevation leaves the channel susceptible to weather changes.

"That's just the reality of the situation," he said. "Under normal conditions, the signal should be pretty stable."

But winter is when the channel is most affected because of cold, harsh conditions.

"It was fine until Christmas time," said Dan Wherry, Cox director of operations in the Wood River Valley.

Wherry said NBC engineers have been coming in trying to fix the pixelation problem.

"We're working with them constantly," he said.

Armstrong said a second receiver may have to be added on Baldy, but the solution is still unclear. His engineers will study the Baldy receiver this week.

Trevon Milliard:

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