MPBN upgrade aims to fix reception in Greater Bangor

Posted Dec. 14, 2010, at 9:25 p.m.
James Dowe Jr. Named MPBN President & CEO (Jim Dowe)
James Dowe Jr. Named MPBN President & CEO (Jim Dowe)

BANGOR, Maine — Television viewers in Greater Bangor who have been unable to tune in to such classic public television fare as “Sesame Street,” “Masterpiece Theatre,” “Antiques Roadshow” and “NOVA” could see their return next spring.

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network announced plans Tuesday to significantly improve the signal strength of its over-the-air television broadcasts in the Bangor viewing area — and possibly beyond — by installing new broadcasting equipment on Blackcap Mountain in Eddington.

MPBN intends to invest about $75,000 in a television translator to correct a signal deficiency that resulted from the nationwide conversion to digital broadcasting technology in February 2009, President and CEO Jim Dowe said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

The conversion had the unintended effect of leaving some noncable and nonsatellite viewers without access to MPBN and some commercial broadcasters. Mainers who got television reception over the air learned that digital signals are more sensitive to such obstacles as mountains and hills, granite and oceans and rough weather, Dowe said.

“I’d say there might be 1,000 households out there that were affected, but that’s only an estimate,” he said, referring to the Bangor area. “I don’t think we had any way of identifying” which or how many viewers lost their ability to view the station on their televisions.

“Restoring signal integrity in Bangor has been a top priority at MPBN since the day we converted to digital in 2009,” Dowe said.

“We’ve agonized about this,” he said. “I felt devastated when it dropped out, because we didn’t expect that. People tell us they can’t imagine life without public television.”

Dowe said the signal upgrade will be completed in the spring of 2011, “as soon as we get to the towers,” which likely will be in April or May.

“Healthy year-to-date operating results allow us to move ahead at this time,” he said, adding that the funding for the signal boost will come from a combination of better-than-expected revenues and lower-than-projected costs.

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