The need for common groundDigital conversion by May 2002 seems unrealistic without combined resources 11/01/2008 08:00:00 PM Eastern
While the NAB and assorted station groups are asking Congress for more time to build out their digital television, a major manufacturer of towers says the mandated May 2002 deadline for commercial stations isn't "unrealistic" if stations learn to cooperate.
Doug Standley, president of Irving, Texas-based SpectraSite Broadcast Group, says that because many stations are building their own separate transmission facilities, the digital transition is happening that much slower.
Instead, Standley argues, stations should be considering the co-location approach, whereby multiple stations share a common tower and transmission building.
That's been the approach at Sutro Tower in San Francisco, the DTV Condo in Needham, Mass., DTV Utah in Salt Lake City and elsewhere, but Standley sees the majority of stations doing it "the hard way."
"We're adding more crews all the time, and we could get up to the capacity we'd need to, but I feel that this transition will be successful only if broadcasters quit trying to work independently," Standley said. "I've seen studies that state that more than 780 towers will have to be built to get almost every station on the air [with digital]. Nineteen of them were built in the year 2000. You do the math."
For the DT transition to happen on time, he says, "broadcasters would have to look at life differently," he said. "Honestly, I see a slim chance of that happening. There are still a significant number of broadcasters that do not have a fully digital plant. The amazing thing is that several of them are out-licensing companies like iBlast to use their digital spectrum, but it isn't going to be available to them because they are not going to be transmitting digitally."
Dave Glidden, director of television transmission products at transmitter manufacturer Harris Broadcast in Mason, Ohio, agrees the industry can do more to move the transition along. "There are various combining issues and other things that we have to deal with in co-location situations," he says, "but, in general, there is some logic to getting stations on the air sooner by combining their resources."
As proof that stations are making an effort to get on the air, Harris has seen "record bookings" in the last three months and double the rate of the same time last year. They could do more, however, if there were more orders.