What the upgraded WCAX transmitter means for you

Published: Sep. 25, 2019 at 6:31 PM EDT
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We have some exciting news at Channel 3: We are upgrading our transmitter on the top of Mount Mansfield! It will allow us to bring better broadcast to you down the line.

Our Cat Viglienzoni went up to the top of Mount Mansfield to show you what's changing and to explain what it means for you at home.

This is the side of our industry that very few viewers at home actually see. But this is how we stay on the air to you at home. It's how we get our signal to you and at the end of next month, our new transmitter will go online.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: It is a bit of a hike to the transmitter.

Jay Barton/WCAX General Manager: It is a little bit of a hike. I don't like admitting how out of shape I am but... I'm usually puffing for breath more than I should be.

Hike or not, few people at Channel 3 love the transmitter more than General Manager Jay Barton.

Cat Viglienzoni: So some people at home might not care about transmitters, but why does Jay Barton think transmitters are so cool?

Jay Barton: No human needs to know. There are like five engineers at our TV station who agree with Jay because Jay is a nerd when it comes to this.

Wednesday, he's in his element. Showing Cat-- and you-- the new transmitter we're installing right now.

"So, originally you had a really big transmitter that would have taken up this whole room. The last transmitter that this will replace took up about twice as much space as this one does," Barton explained.

Cat Viglienzoni: Anything else in here we need to see?

Jay Barton: Nothing you need to see, I just get a kick out of it, it's super cool!

Cat Viglienzoni: You get a kick out of this. Seeing the transition and everything-- what are you thinking about?

Jay Barton: What am I thinking about? When I see the technology and everything, it's just exciting... It's setting us up for the future.

The much smaller transmitter is much more efficient than the old one, so there's a lot of old stuff we don't have to power anymore.

It's a bit of a situation where we're making lemonade out of lemons handed to us by the federal government, which is making us and about 1,000 other TV and radio stations around the country switch some behind-the-scenes transmissions so that the government can open more frequencies for cellphone use.

"The FCC is requiring it. That's always the best answer-- the government said so," Barton said. "But that's OK because we're taking the opportunity to make it into a massive upgrade."

Upgrades that Barton says make us more energy-efficient, allowing us to send our signal the same distance or farther, and down the line will let us do new and innovative broadcasting techniques. No jobs are going away. No changes to the environment up here. Barton says our switch is to bring you a quality broadcast in a better way.

"The reason WCAX exists is to serve our community and to connect with it. This is our connection to 15-20 percent of people, whether they're cord-cutters or they've just always watched over the air. This is how they watch television. And so what we're trying to do is give them the best possible signal over the air they can possibly get," Barton said.

So, what does that mean for over-the-air viewers-- those of you who get us via an antenna? It means that next month, you will need to rescan your TVs so that they remember where Channel 3 is. It sounds complicated, but it really isn't. It's going to involve a couple of button presses on your remote.

Again, that's not until late next month, Oct. 24, but we just wanted to put that on your radar. And when the time comes, we will have staff available to walk you through it if you have trouble.