Behind the Scenes at CBC: How Rescan Day Meant Changes at WRAL-TV Transmitter Site

New antenna

From WRAL-TV Chief Engineer Pete Sockett: “On July 10, 2019, CBC put up a new side-mount antenna for WRAL-TV and WRAZ-TV. In Sept, we will start broadcasting from it while we replace the antennas on the top of the tower!!”

By now WRAL-TV viewers know about the Rescan Day on September 11, 2019, originally slated for September 6 but postponed due to Hurricane Dorian.  (To continue receiving the signal for WRAL-TV and FOX 50, viewers watching via antenna need to rescan their television sets.).  But behind the scenes at CBC, preparing for the rescan has involved much more.

Capcom sat down with WRAL-TV Transmitter Supervisor Matt Brandes to find out what CBC had to do to prepare for the big day.

“Basically, every major station in our market has to change channels to clear the spectrum that Congress sold to the wireless folks,” explained Brandes.

He continued, “All of the stations except for WTVD in our market are in Phase 5.  Phase 5 has a target date of September 6, 2019 [which got bumped to Sept 11 due to the weather].  On that day everybody is supposed to be on their new channel.”

Brandes outlined the channel changes that will be happening, which he called “the dance”:

  • WRAL is going from channel 48 to channel 17,
  • WRAZ is going from channel 49 to channel 15,
  • WNCN is going from channel 17 to channel 8,
  • WLFL is going from channel 27 to channel 18,
  • WRDC is going from channel 28 to channel 14.

He noted, “These are all physical channels, they will all still display the original analog channel on your TV like they do now.”

In order to make the change happen for WRAL-TV and FOX 50, CBC decided to put up “interim” antennas on the new channels.  New interim side-mounted antennas were placed at the WRAL-TV Transmitter in Auburn, NC.

Brandes gave the technical details to Capcom:

That antenna is 65 feet long and weighs about 3,000 lbs.  These interim antennas are not quite at the top of the tower.  When the time comes we will turn the new channels at about 1700’ on and turn off the old channels at the tower top.  Once there are no stations operating from the tower top we will remove all of the old main antennas on top and install new ones.  Then the “interim” antennas will become our “aux” or backup antennas. 

It’s not certain yet but we may be using a helicopter to do the tower top antennas.  Some of the tower top antennas can weigh between 10,000 and 20,000 lbs which is close to the capacity of a lifting helicopter.

On top of all that, our transmitters can’t be re-tuned to the new channels and there wasn’t room in the old building for both the new and old ones so we have built another wing at the DTV site and are installing 2 new transmitters.

WRAL-TV produced a video for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) back at the beginning of the process, which explains.  (NOTE:  Brandes is “that guy” waving on top of the tower in the video):

Brandes and the engineering team at WRAL-TV have spent the past two to three years working on and preparing for the rescan change.

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Pete Sockett & Matt Brandes for these capcom photos.


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