FAQ

Here we’ll try to briefly touch upon Frequently Asked Questions, provide a quick and understandable answer, and direct you to resources to help you learn more.

General

What’s this about “translators”? Do I need to know a foreign language?

No special language skills are required. The term “Translator” is in reference to the equipment that is used to transmit a signal, either audio or video, on a frequency or channel different than it was originally transmitted on. For example, a broadcast on TV channel 8 might be received by translator equipment, and shifted either up or down, perhaps to channel 45. The program content of the broadcast is unchanged by the shift in channel, it is identical to the original. Shifting the frequency of FM stations or the channel number of TV stations is necessary to prevent interference to the originating station’s broadcast signal. See the HDTV and FM Radio pages for additional information.

HDTV

HDTV? What’s that? Why do I need it?

HDTV stands for High Definition TeleVision, which is the current, digital standard for all television broadcasts in the U.S. All full-power television stations in the country were required to switch over to this new digital standard and cease broadcasting in the old, “analog” format in early 2010. In nearly all parts of the country, it is the only type of on-air television broadcast available. Your enjoyment of on-air television broadcasts is now enhanced by clearer, crisper video images, stereophonic and surround sound of the highest quality, and the complete absence of snow, ghosting, fading, and distortion that the old system was prone to experience. HDTV also allows the originating station to supply up to three additional program streams to be viewed. See the HDTV page for additional information.

I’ve tried receiving your broadcasts on my HD television, but see nothing. Why?

There may be a variety of reasons, but first understand that you must have an antenna connected to your television to receive anything. See the HDTV Antennas page for additional information. With an antenna, reception in most areas of Florence and the surrounding area should be no problem. See the HDTV Coverage page for additional information and some helpful maps to determine if you can receive our signals. Some HD televisions must be programmed to recognize on-air broadcast signals. Consult your television’s owners manual for instructions on how to “scan” for stations.

My television is quite old. Can I still use it to receive your broadcasts?

For the best viewing experience, we recommend that you purchase a newer television. All receivers manufactured after 2007 are HDTV capable. You do not need an elaborate system to view HDTV, even a modestly-priced HDTV will provide you with significantly improved picture quality. Alternately, “converter boxes” are manufactured to allow older sets to receive HDTV signals.

My television isn’t getting anything. What am I doing wrong?

Possibly nothing. Remember that your HD television must be set to “scan” for area transmitters. Once it learns what’s out there, you might be fine. In all instances, some kind of an antenna is necessary. Many viewers in town can get by with a simple “loop” antenna, while those on the fringes of town or in certain problem areas will need an outdoor-type antenna.

What are the “problem areas”?

Because radio waves (television is transmitted by radio waves) are not able to “bend” around obstructions, any location that is not within line-of-sight of the WLT tower south of town will be at a disadvantage for reception. Hills, large metal-framed or -clad buildings or other structures, large trees, etc. between the receiver and the tower will make reception more difficult or impossible. Even locations in town with line-of-sight to the tower may have difficulties, as described below.

I’m in town, and I can clearly see the tower, but I can’t receive all the stations.

Unfortunately, this is something we hear too often. Even if you are away from obstructions, the signals my be reflecting off of those objects, and are being received by your TV set. This is a phenomena known as “multipath”, that is multiple signals broadcast by the same source, but arriving at different times due to the difference in distance (reflected signals travel farther than direct signals, and so are received delayed in time.) Your TV set has trouble discerning which signal to use, and so it displays artifacts in the picture, or mutes to no picture at all.

Fortunately, in most cases, the solution to the reflected signals problem is to replace your indoor “loop” antenna with an outdoor-type, directional antenna. The directional antenna will attenuate, or “ignore” signals from the back and sides so that there is less competition of signals to confuse your set. An “outdoor” antenna doesn’t necessarily have to be on your roof, or even outdoors. In an attic, a carport rafter area, in an inconspicuous area around your eaves, all of these may work fine. One viewer solved her reception problems by putting a directional antenna in her unused hall closet.

I have an outdoor antenna and I still can’t get one channel. My neighbor down the street doesn’t have this problem.

We hear this most from viewers who live close-in, places around the water tower on Spruce Street, by the Airport on Kingwood, etc. The answer is more technical, and is also more difficult to correct. In short, all transmitting antennas have “lobes” and “nulls” in their vertical radiation pattern, that is areas of higher and lower concentrations of radio frequency energy. These areas are concentrated at various angles below the tower. The signal going out towards the horizon is nice and even, but close-in it varies greatly. Add to this the possibility of multipath signals, and you get a perfect storm, weak direct signal in relation to the stronger reflected signal.

For an idea what this “looks” like, view the ground in front of an automobile at night when the headlights are on. Right at the front bumper of the car, there will bright and dim areas on the pavement, while 25 or 50 feet out on the road, the illumination is good and even. This is directly analogous to the patterns of vertical radiation in a broadcast antenna. Moving your antenna even just a few feet one direction or the other might be enough to get you out of the dark.

I’ve tried everything, I still can’t get that one channel!

Don’t give up! Short of selling your home and moving to another part of town, it might be time to try some unconventional cures.

  • Try pointing your antenna away from the tower. If the reflected signal is so strong, it might be a better bet than going with the direct signal.
  • You might try changing the polarity of your antenna. Most TV antennas are horizontally polarized because this is a good way to minimize the effects of trees, power poles, lighting standards, and other common upright obstructions. WLT’s transmitting antenna is “circularly polarized”, so it transmits in both planes. Rotating the receive antenna 90 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise will change the polarity. (this assumes that you keep the antenna pointed at the same compass reading that you started at.)
  • Put up a second outdoor antenna some distance away, using a two-set “splitter” to combine the two antennas into one coaxial feed line. Perhaps the multipath will cancel and the direct signal will add.
  • Sometimes too much signal is worse than not enough. It doesn’t take very much input to make an HD television produce a fine picture. Try inserting “attenuator pads” in the coaxial feedline. These are small, cylindrical “F connector” devices that reduce the signal reaching your set. They are rated by how much signal loss they produce, measured in decibels. A 3db “pad” cuts the signal in half. 6db cuts it by 75%, and 9 db allows only about 12% of the signal through. Add in as much attenuation as necessary until the interference is gone, or you start losing the other channels

Although this doesn’t sound very encouraging, keep trying things until something works. Over-the-air television has always involved a bit of experimentation, particularly in hilly or mountainous terrain.

What else can affect reception?

This is the non-technical “handwavium” explanation. Viewers in problem areas (in the nulls and on the outskirts of town, behind trees, around the curves and hills) are subject to variable environmental conditions. Leaves on (or off) trees and shrubs, wet foliage, plain old fog, temperature inversions in the atmosphere causing “ducting” and flat-out dingbat problems like whether a neighbor’s metal garage door is up or down or some guy three blocks away who parks a slab-sided, aluminum-clad RV in his driveway. One viewer complained for a week without us finding any reason. After being explained some basic propagation theory, she realized that the picture was just fine until she moved the TV out of it’s usual corner to put up the Christmas tree for the season. Put the TV back in it’s place and no more problems. It can be a lot like chasing ghosts, except lots less glamorous. Keep trying things until something works, however improbable it may seem.

Everything was fine, now channel XX is all pixelated and freezing.

Don’t despair. Sometimes stuff happens. For the most part, WLT has very reliable equipment. We have a massive diesel generator to back up the utility power during failures, and we try hard to keep the stations coming no matter what.

That said, there are many conditions that are beyond our control. All of the TV programming you see on our channels comes from Eugene by various means. Some stations own microwave equipment to deliver the programming, while others rely on commercial radio communications companies to bring the picture and sound over from the valley. Nearly all of these microwave systems are “hop” systems, the programming is being sent to some other distant mountain top, then relayed into Florence to supply us. Some stations rely on over-the-air pickup of the Eugene TV station to supply us with programming. There are many, many links in the chain, and if any one of them goes bad, one or more channels here gets impacted. We are only able to retransmit the programming that we are sent, so if it arrives defective, or not at all, we can only notify the originating station and hope it is repaired soon.

First, check into this web site. When there is an ongoing problem that we are aware of, there will be a banner at the bottom of every page describing the issue, and giving information as to when it is expected to be solved.

If you have checked with friends, neighbors or social media, and the indications are that other viewers are experiencing an outage on the same channel(s) you are having problems with, please do contact us via our Contact Page. We can’t be monitoring every channel all the time, and we rely on reports from concerned viewers to help us keep up with the status of the system. Normally, each message sent via the site will be answered individually, although if things are coming in hot and heavy, you might get an auto-reply until we get caught up.

Also consider contacting the originating station using the contact information on the HDTV page. If they just get a single complaint, they are likely to think that the problem is your antenna or your set, but if there are several similar reports of trouble, they will take it seriously. West Lane County comprises 10% of their viewing public. For the sake of their ratings and their advertisers, they are more than willing to do whatever it takes to resolve any transmission problems in lil’ ole’ Florence. (It’s also a condition of their user contract with WLT, so we both take it seriously)

Why is HDTV supposed to be so much better? I don’t remember having so many problems with reception back before it came along.

Well, in may respects, you are correct. When HDTV works, it’s amazing. When it doesn’t work, it’s… mostly nothing.

The concept of HDTV is a sound one. Remove the variables of analog transmission and reception and the picture and sound quality improves, additional channels can be broadcast, and the overall range (distance) that the signal covers increases. On paper.

In application, the reality is somewhat more variable. Digital is great for low noise, high quality content transmission. There’s only two states, a digital 1 or a digital 0, no room for anything in between, so no corruption of the program content by weak signal snow, multipath ghosting, vertical synchronization failures (rolling picture), etc.

The problem comes when atmospherics, terrain obstructions, reflected signals and the like intervene. HDTV depends on all of the little 1’s and 0’s being in the proper place and all lined up correctly. If the checksums don’t figure, the buffer doesn’t fill, or the error correction can’t keep up with the corrupt data, what the viewer gets is… nothing, pretty much. Digital doesn’t fail gracefully.

Makes one yearn for the old analog days where you could still watch I Love Lucy through whatever ghosts and snow were in the signal. The brain is a powerful filter, all that interference, and you could still comprehend and enjoy the show.

I’m NOT going up on the roof! How can I get an outdoor antenna installed?

You are in luck! What we have been told is that if you purchase an outdoor antenna from Hyak in Florence, they will install it for you. There may be an additional charge for this service, so be sure to inquire about this. Contracting to do installation or repairs on a home or business requires a license and insurance, so unless you have a relative who likes heights and owes you a favor, this may be your best option.

FM

I see that one of your FM radio stations is broadcasting in digital HD. When will the remainder go HD?

HD Radio is still an option, rather than a mandate. As such, most radio broadcasters are waiting to see how many HD radio receivers there will be in the market, and how much interest the public has in buying them. HD radio is very expensive to buy and install, so most broadcasters are being cautious.

Every so often, I hear an unusual squawking noise on my FM radio. What’s that?

What you are hearing is most likely the alert signal tones and data headers for the Emergency Alert System. The equipment for the EAS system is tested each week to ensure it is properly functional. The EAS system is an integral part of public safety in the event of an emergency, and also is used to assist law enforcement in the event of a child abduction. Get to know more about this essential service by reading Wikipedia’s Emergency Alert System page.

Because the format of test messages closely resembles that of actual emergency messages, it is advised that you pay close attention to any EAS activations you hear on any broadcast station. Until you can confirm by listening or reading the EAS message that it is “only a test”, you should assume that the incoming information could be important to your safety, or that of others near you.

All West Lane Translator associated stations carry regularly required tests as well as emergency messages as necessary. You will likely encounter EAS activations in the form of tests on any of our stations.