Two categories of television stations are exempt from the federal government’s digital switchover: translators and low-power stations. Translators are basically signal boosters for metropolitan stations and are designed to serve a state’s more rural areas. Low-power (LP) stations are independent broadcasters usually confined to the UHF band of the television dial. Their low radio frequency (between 3 and 150 kilowatts) gives them a limited broadcast area. With even large corporate broadcasters struggling to make the original Feb. 17 deadline, few of these LP stations are capable of funding and installing the equipment necessary to make the digital change. So for now, the government is giving them a break.
According to the New Mexico Broadcasters Association, Albuquerque has four low-power stations. Come the switchover, these low-power analog stations may be the only thing you’ll be able to pick up if you have an older television without benefit of cable, satellite dish or digital converter box. Some (but not all) digital converter boxes are capable of receiving both new digital and old analog signals. This is particularly helpful to viewers in rural areas that have a greater number of translators and low-power stations.
Although low-power stations aren’t required to make the switch now, most in the industry admit those who do not change over are going to lose a great deal of ad revenue. As a result, several of Albuquerque’s LP stations are in the process of going digital.
KTEL-47, which broadcasts a feed of Spanish-language network Telemundo, plans to broadcast in both digital and analog come Feb. 17. KTEL will change from 47 on the UHF dial to 39 on the digital receiver.
KTVS-36 is a family station that alternates religious programming with old-fashioned classics like “Bonanza” and “The Andy Griffith Show.” The station’s owner/operator, Alpha Omega Broadcasting, maintains a second, full-power station called KAZQ-32. Starting Feb. 17, KTVS will be appended to KAZQ’s signal and switched over to the digital 32.3 frequency. Station owners are considering maintaining both an analog and a digital signal for KTVS for the time being to help ease the transition for rural viewers.
KQDF-25 is a Spanish-language station owned by Azteca América, a broadcast network that operates 40 stations, primarily in the Texas area. For now, Azteca América is ignoring the original Feb. 17 date and keeping all its stations analog. There are plans to eventually convert all 40 stations to digital, but Azteca América is weighing which of its markets to convert first.
Albuquerque’s fourth LP station, KTFA-48, has gone through a number of changes over the years, switching formats from Spanish-language Univision to its current format as a Home Shopping Network feed. Its owners, Entravision Communication Corporation, plan to keep its signal analog.