What's Up With Reception?? The Continuing Ballad of Charter Cable and What's Up with DTV

By: Michael Riddle
By: Michael Riddle

A couple a viewers have called, sent e-mails and added Blog comments about reception problems with WITN.... I will attempt to answer some of these questions to the best of my ability!

A couple a viewers have called, sent e-mails and added Blog comments about reception problems with WITN.... I will attempt to answer some of these questions to the best of my ability!

Let's start with the comment by Elsie from Avon on my previous Blog entry. WITN is carried by Charter Cable on six different systems in North Carolina. On most systems they pick up our Analog channel 7 signal and then re-transmit that to their customers. WITN-TV has been broadcasting from near the top of our 2,000 foot tower in Grifton since the 1970's. Our signal was "circularly polarized" for many years and had one of the largest footprints in the nation! When we installed digital television, our analog signal was moved to a "hybrid" antenna and mounted about 25 feet lower than before. The signal is not "circularly polarized" on this new hybrid antenna.

Charter Cable, like many other companies and cable operators has been downsizing and re-locating offices. They used to have an office on the outer banks that managed the system that served Avon, North Carolina. They now have consolidated the management of all their North Carolina systems in Suffolk, Virginia. In addition to the signal problems on the outer banks we have also heard that viewers in Roanoke Rapids have been experiencing problems with our signal on Charter Cable.

The management of Charter Cable has indicated to us that they are very aware of these reception problems. They have told us that they plan to consolidate the reception of our broadcast signal at their headend facility in Kenly. They will then send the signal via fiber optics to both Roanoke Rapids and the outer banks. This solution is still a few months away... but it should help resolve the issue.

That begs the question, why do they now have trouble receiving our signal? I wish there was one simple answer, but there are several factors at play here. First, their current reception facilities in Roanoke Rapids and Elizabeth City are near the outer fringes of our coverage area. For optimum reception in those areas you need a good antenna that is directionally pointed at our transmit antenna with good quality wiring. Over time and exposure to the elements antennas can get out of alignment, become corroded and not function as well as they do when brand new. In addition our change of transmitting antennas does not allow us to overcome these deficiencies as well as in the past.

I make the point about antenna maintenance because it becomes even more critical with digital television (DTV). Robert from Hubert wrote me a note about digital reception saying,  "I have been receiving great quality broadcast TV for years. I recently bought the new converter box...  The BIG PROBLEM is that it all too frequently pixelates (small squares of picture change and the rest remains the same), and the audio cuts in and out..... A pop up window comes on the screen that says "Weak Signal" and sometimes "No Program" .....I have always received a great picture and sound with the old analog broadcasts... using a small set of rabbit ears that has a built in signal amplifier. I'm using the same antenna and the same TV I have had for years. Don't worry, it's not just Channel 7,... it's ALL OF THEM !!"

With analog television a weak signal meant a snowy picture, with digital television you end up with pixelation or no picture or sound at all.

Unfortunately what Robert has discovered is that you may need to upgrade your antenna reception with a better antenna and/or amplifier. If you live more than 20-25 miles from our tower in Grifton, rabbit ears may not cut it! It gets even worse with newer and better construction..... get a long cable and move your rabbit ears to the window or outside the house/apartment and you will see what I mean! The good news is that a regular rooftop antenna should work just fine if pointed towards Grifton. I tested a DTV converter at our office on Western Boulevard in Jacksonville using a rooftop antenna and got excellent reception.

So a little antenna upgrading or relocation can help. Give it a try and experiment.



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