Indiana PBS group starts DTV engines

The nine-member Indiana Public Broadcast Stations group (IPBS) has chosen Harris transmitters and Dielectric antennas to form the backbone of its digital-transmission capabilities.

According to Jim Borgioli, owner of Digital Broadcast Design and Engineering, Indianapolis, who heads the move to digital, the deals mean a potential $11.5 million for Harris for transmitters and master-control equipment, $2 million to Dielectric for antennas and transmission lines, and $1 million to Heartland Video for microwave equipment. The rest of the $20 million budget will be spent on incidentals and changes to towers by Indiana-based tower companies ERI and Pirod Towers.

Harris will provide solid-state DiamondCD UHF, PlatinumCD VHF and Sigma CD-II UHF transmitters, FlexiCoder ATSC MPEG-2 digital encoding systems, an integrated high-definition (HD) master-control module, and PSIPplus automated Program and System Information Protocol systems for the stations.

WVUT-TV Vincennes, Ind., has already received its transmitter. WFYI Indianapolis, WTBU-TV Indianapolis, WTIU-TV Bloomington, WIPB-TV Muncie, WNIT-TV South Bend, WNIN-TV Evansville, WFWA-TV Fort Wayne and WYIN Merrillville will follow suit through summer 2003.

Harris will also provide HD master- control–system integration services, with WFYI-TV and WTBU slated to be operational with the FlexiCoder (which can handle one HD channel or eight standard-definition channels) and Masterplus by spring. WTBU's master control is located at WFYI's studios, allowing the stations to share one FlexiCoder chassis.

Steven Jensen, vice president of engineering for WFYI-TV Indianapolis, says, "When we were given a demo at Harris, the thing we liked was that it was all one package and we didn't have to go to different vendors and piece it together like a puzzle. At WFYI, we run another station, WTBU, and we'll run one frame of equipment for both stations."

Borgioli's advice for broadcasters moving to digital: Don't underestimate the pitfalls of issues like tower construction. "Just because you have a tower and you're on the air now doesn't mean it's going to be an easy transition. There are some stations where the tower is fine, and there are others where it's costing almost as much to reinforce their towers or they need to build another. Others need to move because their lease is expiring or they can't find space on the tower."

Specifically among the stations he is working with, WNIT-TV South Bend is in the middle of writing up a tower agreement, WNIN-TV Evansville recently acquired land for the tower, WYIN is looking to move its transmitter facility, and WFYI is getting close to hammering out a new lease.

"Half the stations don't have transmitters or antennas on order because we don't know what power or height they're going to be," says Borgioli.

Once WFYI-TV is up and running, Jensen expects to pass through PBS HD programming and possibly multicast two channels. Long-term plans, he says, include multicasting of four channels. "But nothing is down paper yet."