Local TV not digital ready

Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The six-station consortium of television stations serving the Anchorage area is hoping for another extension from the Federal Communications Commission on a requirement that the stations begin broadcasting digital signals.

The FCC had required commercial stations to begin digital broadcasting in May, but agreed to a six-month extension. Members of the consortium say they will seek another extension, taking their target date to May 2003.

The consortium, formed to cut conversion costs, has been swimming through plan after plan on how exactly to get a digital signal to the Anchorage Bowl and beyond.

''This absolutely is a moving target,'' said Sean Bradley, vice president and general manager for KIMO Channel 13.

Besides converting equipment to be able to broadcast digital signals, stations face the expense of buying digital cameras to produce digital programming. Costs will run in the millions for each station, said Al Bramstedt, general manager for KTUU Channel 2.

The latest strategy is to broadcast from a tower above Eagle River at a site known as Eagle's Nest.

''In theory, it makes conversion a little less expensive'' than previous plans using two Anchorage towers, Bradley said, ''and right from the get-go provides the service to a greater number of viewers.''

Of course, digital quality picture and sound have been available for years via digital DVD players paired with a digital television set, said Terry Shimek, owner of Shimek's, an electronics store.

Digital broadcasting would certainly help TV sales, Shimek said, but ''it's only a portion of what digital is about for the consumer.''

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