Ax falls after FCC cuts area TV reception |

Ax falls after FCC cuts area TV reception

Allyn Harvey

The static that has filled the airwaves since the county shut down about a third of its translator broadcasting system last summer has resulted in the departure of at least one long-term county employee.

John Dady, the broadcast engineer who oversaw the development and expansion of the translator system that broadcasts radio and television signals throughout the valley, is no longer employed by Pitkin County, apparently because he failed to apply for licenses for 19 translators.

Dady, whose departure was made public at a county budget hearing last week, is the only known casualty resulting from the shutdown, which has resulted in hundreds of homes throughout the county’s rural areas losing some or all of their television reception.

Pitkin County has 63 translators scattered around the valley, mostly on top of mountains and hills, that take radio and television signals from Denver and Grand Junction and rebroadcast them. The system was originally put up to make it possible for valley residents to receive FM radio signals, which are notoriously difficult to broadcast in mountainous areas. The system’s use has since been expanded to make television reception possible as well, especially in areas where cable service is not available, like Old Snowmass and Redstone.

On July 22 the county was forced to turn off 19 of its translators because they had not been licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. Television reception in many parts of the valley went from difficult to impossible. Many homes went from being able to watch five stations with their “rabbit ear” antenna to just two or one or in some cases none.

County officials admitted that Dady was gone after longtime local resident Joann Musceri asked about the licensing problem. “What happened? I thought it was the engineer’s job to apply for the licenses,” she said at the county commissioner’s budget meeting last Tuesday.

“That’s why he’s no longer here,” responded one of the commissioners, referring to Dady.

Terry Newland, the paid director of the translator advisory board, said that the work formerly done be Dady is now in the hands of a Montrose-based firm while the translator board decides what to do. The position is under review, she said.

The county has since applied to the FCC for the broadcast licenses, which are used to allocate frequencies to different entities, like radio stations, television stations and county translator boards. Newland reckons the FCC won’t act on the applications until January at the earliest.

“They’re really busy with applications at the FCC right now, and we don’t get special priority even though we were already broadcasting on those frequencies,” Newland said.

Dady could not be reached for comment.

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