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Front Page » April 3, 2014 » Carbon County News » Still plenty of channels available on the airwaves
Published 121 days ago

Still plenty of channels available on the airwaves


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

In these days of crunched budgets and people feeling the pinch in their finances, its hard to know what can be done for families to lower the costs they accumulate each month. Certainly doing coupon shopping, watching for sales and spending only on things that are really needed can help.

But what about those things people all seem to take for granted that they have to spend money on such as power, water, electricity and cable television?

Well no one can do without power or water, but piped in television.

According to national figures the average family spends about $78 a month on cable television (2011 figures). That means some get the smaller packages ($30 to $40 a month) while others are spending much more.

For those that are strapped for cash, or that find so much of what they have on cable is so loaded with programming they don't want, there is an alternative. And it is a very old alternative, one that anyone over the age of 50 grew up with. It's free, over the airwaves television.

In Carbon County, the stations that can be received are plentiful over the air. And while the stations that can be received aren't HBO or other premium channels, they are numerous and full of good programming. For news junkies the 24 hour news cycle stations are also not sent over the airwaves, but the channels on the system do provide many news broadcasts per day both about national and Utah news.

The advent of the great boom in cable television came in the 1970s. Soon communities were being wired left and right for cable. The stations that were available seemed such an alternative to some of the drab programing that was on network television, largely all one could get over the air on the old analog sets of the day. The new way of getting entertainment brought in movies that had just left the movie houses, sporting events where a sports junky could get their fix all the time and entertainment not seen before. However, for the first time this came at a cost; people had to pay a monthly bill to get it.

But cable television in the local area had appeared many years before the popularity of that burst in the 1970s. Unlike places along the Wasatch Front where antennas were placed upon mountain peaks and local and network broadcasts were spun out over the whole area, Carbon County could not receive those signals. In those days translators on Ford Ridge and Star Point did not exist for over the air television. Instead a couple of local businessmen started a cable network that carried the signals from Salt Lake to homes in the area. That movement began in the late 1950s and houses, mostly in Price, were wired for cable. However before long the county government began to see that television was not only an important part of the community, they saw it as important to the community in terms of knowledge and emergency notification. Soon translators were installed and over the air television began broadcasting in the local area.

These analog translators continued until 2009 when the federal government mandated that all television signals be changed over to a digital format. So with some change in equipment, five years ago digital television appeared on the local airwaves. By that time, however, the majority of people had contracted with some kind of pay television service because they were getting better signals and it was in digital format.

Today the local translators broadcast 24 free channels for people to see. While none of them are HBO or other premium channels, nor do they carry 24 hours a day sports coverage, they are very adequate for many people. The only cost involved is to install a digital antenna, which can be purchased for between $30 and $80 locally.

Another cost is the changeover from having an old box television set if that is what a family. has. To move from cable with that kind of set a converter box (which makes it so the old television technology can receive digital signals) must be connected to the old television. However, all the newer flat screen televisions are digital ready and do not need a converter box.

A complete list of the stations that are available for free reception are on Carbon County's website at http://www.carbon.utah.gov/Departments/Communications.aspx. The site also spells out how to set up a digital signal antenna.

Stations listed there include all the Salt Lake affiliates (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX) the educational channels from BYU and the University of Utah, independent channels and a number of digital channels on which the local channels broadcast alternative programming such as old television series and other programing.

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