Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

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


Just cut the cord, already...

Posted 8/13/19 (Tue)

On July 5, it was announced that DirecTV dropped all four CBS TV affiliates in western North Dakota.

By the afternoon of July 6, people on the street were livid and wanted CBS back, not so much for the “Young and the Restless” or “NCIS,” but because of local news, weather and sports.

In fact, the company that owns KX, NexStar, had all its channels pulled from DirecTV and many people in the Bakersfield and Fresno areas of California who experienced that massive earthquake July 6, didn’t have local news in the wake of the disaster.

So far the situation with KX has not been rectified but there may be a better answer.

Folks, there is a simple solution to this. Cut the cord. Appropriately, July 7 was “Cut the Cord Day.”

Unfortunately, cable and satellite companies are shooting themselves in the foot. Fees continually increase, local channels like KX get yanked and commercial content seems to increase as the years go by.

Sometimes I’ll stay in hotels and when I do, I like to channel surf because I don’t get cable at home. That included National Guard drills in Bismarck and I’ve been away from that for 12 years already.

Cable has changed dramatically in those 12 years. It’s kind of like the Bruce Springsteen song, “57 channels and nothing on.”

Since the digital age began in June 2009, local TV has exploded. Five TV channels in 2008 has grown to 27 channels today in western North Dakota. Seven of them are in high definition and that doesn’t cost a fee.

The only caveat with this is you would need a good over-the-air antenna that would most likely be mounted in your attic or on your roof if you live in a rural area.

And, if you live 40 miles or more from a transmitting tower, chances are you will need a pre amplifier to maintain the digital signal.

Terrestrial, or over-the-air channels have a lot of variables such as height of transmitting towers, more effected radiated power and even position of said tower.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to get digital TV from as far as 80 or 90 miles away with the right equipment.

I’m actually in the process of researching a phenomenon known as passive reflection and am hoping to get CKX, channel 4 in Brandon, Manitoba, which remains an analog signal, 112 miles northeast.

But herein lies the problem with over-the-air television.

Try to find a professional grade antenna? I challenge you. Nearly  all have been discontinued.

When the United States went digital in June 2009, many companies assumed that people would just go to cable or satellite so they stopped manufacturing high-end, or “deepest fringe” antennas.

There is, however, one company that has created a new generation of over-the-air antennas. The antennas are smaller, they weigh less and they have equal or better gain than the old antennas.

The company is called Wade Antenna and it’s located in Brantford, Ontario. It doesn’t sell antennas directly so you would have to go through a distributor.

I purchased an FM antenna from Wade, mounted it on my garage roof, which is about 25 feet of the ground and am receiving signals from as far away as Regina, Bismarck and Devils Lake. My distributor is Prairie Mobile in Estevan, Saskatchewan. They also have an office in Brandon and Winnipeg. Otherwise, you would have to go to Minneapolis or Lafayette, Indiana to get this quality.

There are others who make good antennas: Winegard, Channel Master and Antennas Direct, but the gain is always less.

There used to be a company called RadioShack that made excellent quality consumer-grade antennas, but it ceased production of its antennas.

There’s also another option if you want to spend the money. Purchase the same equipment cable companies use to bring beyond-line-of-sight channels to local cable companies, i.e, Grand Forks receiving Winnipeg channels.

Keep in mind, TV is a lot more challenging than FM radio, but if you live anywhere in North Dakota, even in the Pembina Gorge, you should be able to get over-the-air television.

There’s also overlap. If you live in the Garrison or Underwood area, you should get TV from Bismarck and Minot, or if you live in the Jamestown area, you’ll get over-the-air TV from Bismarck and from Fargo.

Cable and satellite TV is like smoking cigarettes, nobody wants to quit but when they do, they wonder why they didn’t do it sooner.