Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why VPR Classical is Off the Air in Middlebury

The VPR Classical translator at 99.5 fm is currently off the air due to technical problems. I asked our director of engineering, Rich Parker, to explain some of the challenges we’re facing.

But first, a primer on translators: translators are low-power “booster” frequencies. They do not broadcast on their own, instead, they must be able to pick up the signal from an existing transmitter and rebroadcast it. Translators are easier to procure than full-power transmitters, and can be great for improving reception in a small, concentrated areas.

It has always been challenging to pick up the VPR Classical signal from 88.1 WNCH at the Middlebury translator, but we usually managed pretty well under less than ideal circumstances. However, some new construction near the site has added just enough more interfering reflections that it has tipped things past the balance where a reliable off-air pickup is possible. 

We are looking into mounting a receive antenna on another location that would might have better pick-up, but this will take some time, coordination, and there will undoubtedly be some costs. We are also looking to find out whether we can pick up a better audio signal for 99.5 from 90.9 WOXR from the Champlain Valley.  

The good news is that Vermont Public Radio has been awarded a license for a new VPR Classical station in Middlebury at 90.1 FM, for which we applied to the FCC during a rare non-commercial application 'window' in 2007. We're confident we’ll be able to raise the $250,000 - $300,000 needed to build the transmitter and begin broadcasting within the next year. At 1,000 watts, we are hopeful that classical music fans across Addison County will be able to hear this new station. 

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