Regarding a Ukiah Studio
The recently passed FY2014 budget has about $12K earmarked to create a satellite studio in Ukiah. That money is necessary for the equipment to create a studio similar to the ones we have in Mendocinio and Willits.
In my most recent GM Report, I describe two scenarios for a Ukiah studio, one as described above, which is what has been authorized, and one that solves a bigger infrastructure problem that is also far more expensive to undertake.
What follows is from my recent report:
There are two options for a studio in Ukiah. One, dubbed the Production version, creates a small studio in the class of the ones we have in Mendocino and Willits. The other is the Signal version. It is much more ambitious and expensive, but it would solve a serious problem with the way our basic signal path is routed.
The 2014 budget provides for the modest Production version. It assumes buying the most cost-effective equipment, minimal or no rent, two phone lines and an internet-based connection to Philo. Establishing a Ukiah studio – even a small one with limited capabilities - means we have much greater potential to produce better local public affairs programming because we will have more convenient access to more of what I call the “county-wide thinkers.”
With more funding – along the lines of $60K – we could undertake the Signal version. This version solves a critical long-term infrastructure problem. The KZYX signal should originate in Ukiah and not Philo because the transmitter site for 91.5 on Laughlin Peak is a superior site for the KZYX/KZYZ signal hub. Long term this will become increasingly important.
It requires moving a lot of antennas and equipment and we will need to build moderate-sized towers. But it will raise the KZYX signal up to a stronger, more stable and more versatile position.
We are under some time pressure because the trees that stand in between the Philo studio and Cold Springs Mountain continue to grow. Currently we power through the branches with the help of a booster on the line itself. Once that becomes ineffective (we aren’t sure when but within 2-3 years is probable), then our entire signal path becomes critically compromised.
It is mainly a question of having enough money to pull it off. Because I am unsure of our income in FY2014, I have not budgeted for the larger project. But if we make enough money, we can do this. Or we can mount a capital campaign. To move it along without over-committing funds, we will be testing various locations along the 101 corridor this summer.
At the risk of getting into too much technical detail, I will outline the components of what that will look like:
- The current 91.5 antenna sits on a telephone pole that is not high enough to handle all of the equipment needed for this set of improvements. So we need to replace that pole with a free-standing antenna tower. The cost will be about $20K for this portion of the project.
- Reversing the STIL pathway means physically taking down the sets of antennas and moving them to their respective opposite towers. Mainly this is a skilled labor expense, along with buying new cables. It is also a perfect time to purchase another set of STL units that will make this transition easier and then become a much-needed backup set. Cost would be in the $10-15K range.
- Moving the studio equipment is generally easy except for the big NPR satellite dish. That will have to be dismantled before moving, and then re-assembled.
- With the signal originating from Ukiah and going across the county to Cold Springs (the 90.7 site), the Philo studio no longer has to remain in its present building. This Philo studio has many benefits, but for best performance in our increasingly networked world, our Anderson Valley location needs to be much closer to the telephone building in Boonville. Moving the Philo studio would cost $5-10K.
- Our best growth potential is in Lake County. We can place a “booster” on Cow Mountain above Ukiah that will considerably strengthen our signal into Lake County. From a larger Ukiah studio that originates our main signal, we could send the signal first up to Cow Mountain, use that to activate the Lake County booster, and then send it right over to Laughlin Peak. This requires another new set of STL units, a booster unit, a booster antenna, a small tower and a space to house and power it all. I am not yet sure of the cost for this.