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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Word for Today is, Tenacity

Sometime last year, WBCL changed the orientation of the antenna on their tower from northeast facing to northwest facing.  This was good in some ways, not so good in others.  It helped them get their signal further south and west, which was their goal.  For our NEIRRS studio, it meant that we lost listeners in LaGrange and Angola.  It also meant we could no longer get clear reception, in of all places, our Control Room.  That's where we monitor what is actually going out over the radio and being heard by our listeners.  Sure, we know we're sending a clear signal to the Tower, but is it getting there?  What is actually being heard?  We were left with static in the Control Room, but other locations in the building were fine.  We needed a solution.

Several staff people tried various solutions.  None of which worked.  Every time I walked into the Control Room I heard static and felt horrible for the Board Operators and Broadcast Coordinator.  Sometimes I heard nothing and realized the radio was just turned off to keep Chad or Fred, or Ern, or John, or Al from going completely mad.  This was just a problem that defied a solution.  We tried different radios, different antennas, built a shelf to elevate the radio and antenna, ran antenna wire outside and mounted a small antenna.  Nothing worked.

With the advent of HDTV, my husband Jim and I turned off our Cable TV and hooked up a ROKU to stream programs, and eventually picked up a $25 HDTV antenna at Target so we could receive the free HD programs in our area.  We can pick up about 15 channels for free.  

Recently, when Jim was listening to me complain about the rotten reception we get in our Control Room for the 200th time, he said, maybe you could try a powered antenna like we have for the TV. Really?  None of us had thought of that.  It was worth a try.  

So, I picked one up, took it to the office and plugged it in today.  It worked!  And it seems to be working even if the warehouse overhead doors are up!  We may just have found a solution.  

So if you know a NEIRRS listener who gets our signal but it has too much static, have them check to find out if they have a radio with an external antenna option.  Then they can pick up an "amplified indoor antenna."  The one I bought is made by GE.  I'm sure there are lots.  It should say that it will pick up FM (along with HDTV, VHF, UHF.  

I'll be recommending this options to a few apartment places who have trouble because of their construction.  Help us spread the word!


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