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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News

 

Plucking TV out of the air...

Posted 6/03/14 (Tue)

Back in late February I wrote an article in this space about alternatives to Minot’s FM radio stations.

With proper equipment, there are lots of FM stations available on your dial and some are closer than you think.

While doing research for that article, I ran across a website called TV Fool. At first, the title made me think that this was some kind of satire.

But I looked at and read the website and it turns out this is a wonderful interactive “TV tool” to use for a variety of things.

One of them is called TV signal locator. Just punch in your address or grid coordinates and over-the-air channels are listed, most likely within a viewing distance.

For me, that means 11 digital TV channels from Minot and three analog, low-power Christian stations from Minot.

There are 12 others listed, but unfortunately, those channels, ranging from Winnipeg to Bismarck, are picked up on reliance, no matter how good the equipment is.

However, some of those channels are obtainable and I’ll tell you why.

For years I’ve been involved with a hobby of picking up radio stations from beyond the line of sight. The same laws of physics apply to TV, but TV doesn’t reach as far because of the extra power it takes to produce video.

In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never been able to input general information and see a comprehensive spreadsheet that reveals call letters, network, signal power, it’s path, it’s distance from your location, the signal strength, a diagram of where the stations are located in relation to your address and the azimuth from your location.

Before, all that had to be calculated manually or provided by the TV station. Now, it’s all on a list right on the computer screen.

As an example, if you don’t have cable or satellite TV and live in Kenmare, you should get all the Minot channels, as well as CIEW-TV in Carlyle, Sask., as well as NBC and PBS from Williston.

Most people will point their antenna southeast toward Minot essentially putting the others out of range.

According to TV Fool, if you point your antenna 334 degrees, almost straight north, you will pick up CIEW on channel 7, which is 83 miles from Kenmare.

That’s not even the intriguing part of this website. Instead, there is an interactive tool called “callsign lookup.”

If you know the call letters, type them into the space and it will provide the channel number, the effective radiated power, the coordinates, is it digital or analog and a map of the TV signal’s reception area.

This is really the amazing part of this website because you can actually see where the TV signal is, as opposed to guessing where it might be.

In scouring this website, I’ve picked up information to indicate that despite living in the Des Lacs River Valley, I should be able to pick up CIEW in Carlyle, as well as CKYB channel 4 in Brandon and CKND, channel 9 in Winnipeg.

I say it because even though those signals are weak by the time they reach Carpio, they are available and a purple color diagram shows me exactly where to place an antenna for best results.

Almost five years ago when American television switched over to a digital format, we received a letter from the cable company telling us that if we wanted to watch TV in high definition, we would have to pay extra for it.

That went over like a lead balloon in our house because over-the-air TV was broadcasting in digital and high definition and it should be free. We haven’t had cable TV since.

About the only thing I miss about it is watching the Minnesota Twins.

So after that happened, I invested in one of the best TV antennas on the market and a preamplifier that brought all the Minot stations to us in crystal clear high definition or digital signals.

There have been times, when I’ve activated the scanner on the TV and have picked up KFYR in Bismarck, so there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to get CKYB-4, CIEW-7 and CKND-9 from the across the border.

The only downfall is having to add another antenna and pre-amp since the transmitting towers are in opposite directions.

But to get 14 TV stations that includes seven networks in a valley in a remote part of North Dakota without cable, is a reasonable alternative to paying for cable in my opinion.