Digital switch to leave some Lyon County residents without reception |

Digital switch to leave some Lyon County residents without reception

Kirk Caraway
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada AppealVirginia Johnson plays with her dog Gunner in her Silver Springs home Thursday. Johnson still uses an antenna to receive Reno TV channels and will be impacted by the digital TV conversion.

The switch to digital television scheduled to take place Feb. 17 will leave out some Lyon County residents who receive reception from three translators maintained by the county.

The translators on Raw Peak near Dayton, Singatse Peak near Yerington and Pine Grove Peak near Smith Valley are operated by Lyon County, according to County Facilities Manager Jack Mosby. The cost of maintaining and licensing these translators cost the county approximately $20,000 a year, according to the county manager’s office.

To convert these to digital would cost the county another $30,000. That proved too much for the county, which chose not to upgrade, thus leaving some residents without over-the-air reception.

“People expect the commission to work miracles,” said Commissioner Larry McPherson. “It would be very, very expensive to replace these translators.”

Virginia Johnson of Silver Springs receives her television signal over the air, and complains that the commissioners haven’t investigated the issue enough before deciding against the digital conversion.

“I am concerned that the public is having another means of current communication with the outside world taken away, without at least a thorough investigation of the potential public impact,” Johnson said.

Johnson said it would be cost-prohibitive for her to get cable television.

According to Nick Matesi, general manager of KOLO-TV, approximately 10 percent of households receive their television signal over the air, with cable and satellite making up the other 90 percent. KOLO and other local stations have been working to get their viewers to buy digital converter boxes to make sure their televisions are ready for the change.

But the numerous translators that relay signals to remote areas are another story.

Johnson said the television stations should be willing to pay part of the expense for the translators since the stations run advertising for businesses catering to Lyon County residents. But the stations aren’t willing to absorb the costs.

“We couldn’t even think about taking over the translators,” Matesi said.

Matesi said that many years ago, the station put up several of the translators and turned them over to local governments to operate. But that was a time when over-the-air television was often the only option for viewers.

Johnson said one option the county hasn’t explored is an antenna tax, essentially a fee for everyone with a television antenna, to help cover the cost of updating the maintaining the translators.

The Raw Peak translator carries signals from KRNV Channel 4 and KOLO Channel 8. Singatse Peak translator carries those channels plus KTVN Channel 2, Fox 11 and UPN 17. The Pine Grove translator has all those channels except Fox 11.

Mosby said that residents along the Highway 50 corridor between Dayton and Silver Springs should still be able to get a television signal from the main broadcast transmitters located on Slide Mountain. But, he said, there will definitely be areas where reception will be blocked out.

According to Matesi, viewers who can receive the signal will see a better picture than before, with no snow.

“With digital, you are either going to get a better picture, or no picture,” Matesi said.