Between a burned-out generator, antsy owners and a paper clip used to jumper two pins in the main amplifier, WMDV-44 made it on the air this afternoon. The signal looked good, and we were able to make a recording of our broadcast from a location 2 miles from the transmitter.
I know that’s not very far, but it was enough to prove that we have returned this license to the air within one year of its being shut off, which allows us to retain the license and gives us time to properly adjust the transmitter and build new studios in Danville.
There’s a whopper of a tale in back of this, and here’s the story. . . .about 18 months ago Tri-State Christian Television decided to divest itself of its Danville translator station W18BG, which had a lease on the WAKG-FM tower on White Oak Mountain north of Danville. The station’s days were numbered, because WDBJ in Roanoke was assigned Channel 18 for its digital transition.
Tri-State had secured a digital displacement for W18BG to Channel 23 some years ago, before WDRL-24 had filed any applications for digital conversion. Not aware of the potential conflict, the FCC approved a transmitter move for WDRL that made digital operation of W18BG impossible from White Oak Mountain. The CP was still active, but unbuildable when Star News Corp bought W18BG. Tri-State didn’t mention it, and Star News discovered this problem when it started planning to build out the CP.
Another problem that should have been discovered…but wasn’t…was the lease on the WAKG tower. Piedmont Broadcasting, the owners of WAKG, had a clause in it that gave them an out if the ownership of W18BG changed. After first welcoming us and promising us a new tower lease, the owners of Piedmont notified us that the lease would not be renewed and that we had to remove our equipment from their premises in 90 days.
Yet a third problem appeared shortly before Star News consummated the deal to purchase W18BG. As the June 12 digital transition approached, WDBJ began to demand that the analog 18 signal leave the air so that people in Southside Virginia could receive WDBJ OTA. While still under their ownership, TCT quietly took W18BG dark and would not reveal to us any information about the exact day it ceased broadcasting. We know it was on the air the last week of May, 2009, so our best guess is that it ceased broadcasting on June 1, 2009.
Later in June, 2009 the sale was consummated and ownership of W18BG passed to Star News Corporation. Through the summer and fall, we began uncovering the challenges and impediments to getting this station to the air, realizing that if we failed the license would be invalidated, cancelled and deleted in June of 2010.
The first challenge discovered was the tower lease. After ordering an antenna for the new Channel 23 operation, Piedmont Broadcasting kicked us off the tower. That meant we could not even do an occasional broadcast to hold the license and ask for Special Temporary Authority to either be silent or move to another tower (there are 7 towers on White Oak Mountain).
We surveyed the other towers, and found one that had a space that was useable for us. If you’re familiar with the White Oak Mountain Towers, the one where we leased space is the oldest one on the mountain…a broad, low, self-supporting tower once owned by AT&T and used as a telephone relay point. A nice, historical location.
Then we hired a consulting engineer to do the application to move us to the new tower. It was he that discovered the allocation problems between our digital displacement application on 23 and the operating, full-power digital signal on 24, also licensed to Danville, VA. It was determined that, at any power level, our signal on 23 would cause interference, so we initiated a search for a new channel. The open channel selected was Channel 45, which WXLV left in digital transition.
What followed was six months of engineering statements, legal statements, displacement lists, questions by commission staff, consults with broadcast lawyers and WAITING. Earlier this month, the FCC issued the Construction Permit to build the station on RF Channel 45, with a PSIP number of 44 since WXLV still identifies itself as 45.
For ten days we have been working with electrical and tower contractors to get the necessary systems built on White Oak Mountain. It all came together at 4:28pm this afternoon when a television in our transmitter building came alive with an image on the screen (it was me) and the first Legal Station ID . . . . “This is WMDV-LD, Danville, Virginia, serving Wonderful Martinsville and Danville. Welcome to our family!”
Test broadcasts are scheduled for about 12:00noon on Thursday, plus tests of our microwave relay system. If successful, we may attempt to do a test from our likely new studio location. We encourage people primarily in Pittsylvania County between Danville and Chatham to scan your television receivers and attempt to watch our test programming.
More on the tests as we develop our systems.
Our thanks to Matt Smith for letting us republish his article. We’ll have more details on WMDV’s on-air programming in the next few weeks.