End of analog near for NHPTV

New Hampshire Public Television will shut off its analog broadcasting signal on Tuesday even though the government isn’t requiring the move, partly to save at least $60,000 that would be needed to keep the old equipment going.

The station said this would also allow it to move the digital signal to the antenna that broadcasts Channel 11, which is currently occupied by the old analog signal at Channel 57. This should increase the digital reception of its main channel, because the Channel 11 antenna is 275 feet taller.

“There have been a number of people that don’t pick up (channel) 57 and have been able to pick up 11 in analog just fine. . . . Those people will pick it up better Tuesday than they’ve been able to pick it up now,” said Brian Shepperd, director of technology for NHPTV.

The end of analog signals will only affect people who watch the station over the air through an antenna. Cable and satellite reception won’t be affected.

However, even people who currently watch the digital channel may have to rescan their TV or converter box on Tuesday so that it can find the digital signal at its new channel.

Analog signals had been scheduled to end Tuesday, but Congress pushed back the deadline to June 12 at the urging of the Obama administration, which expressed concern that millions of people weren’t ready.

About 40 percent of the country’s TV stations have already dropped or will do so Tuesday.

New Hampshire’s biggest television station, WMUR in Manchester, will continue to broadcast its analog signal until June 12.

MyTV, the Derry-based station best known as the home of meteorologist Al Kaprielian, switched over to all-digital in early December, becoming the first station in New England to drop analog signals.

Nashua’s Channel 13 isn’t affected by the switch because it’s a low-power station. It will continue to broadcast analog only.

It isn’t clear how many people depend entirely on antennas for TV reception. Shepperd said NHPTV estimated that about 10 percent of its audience used over-the-air signals exclusively, although that figure includes rural portions of the state where cable TV coverage is less extensive.

One of the region’s few antenna installers estimated in an earlier Telegraph article that about 3 percent of viewers in the Nashua region use just antennas.

Shepperd said dropping analog signals would allow the station to move out of a years-long transition mode, in which two sets of transmitters had to be run at the same time.

“Everything was in sort of temporary mode,” he said.

Maintaining the analog signal from Feb. 17 through June 12 would cost at least $60,000 in electricity and operating expenses, NHPTV estimated. The number could be higher, said Sheppard; for example, if a piece of equipment blew on a transmitter, a replacement would have to be purchased because the station stopped stockpiling spares last summer.

The station’s annual operating budget is about $9 million.

In May or June, Sheppard said the station plans to boost the power at its Channel 11 antenna from 15.8 kilowatts to around 30 kilowatts, the maximum allowed under FCC regulations, which it said will further improve the signal.

The analog signals will be shut off on channels 11 (WENH-Durham), 49 (WLED-Littleton) and 52 (WEKW-Keene). Analog will remain until June 12 on the Channel 18 translator in Pittsburg, which serves the North Country, where antennas are more commonly used.

The major advantage of ending analog transmission is that it will free up large portions of the regulated airwaves, since digital signals are much smaller. The federal government made more than $15 billion when it auctioned off some of the spectrum that will be freed up; portions of the rest will be used for emergency services and wireless broadband.