Allentown stations installing new antenna

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Three stations in Allentown, Pennsylvania, are installing a replacement antenna for the one they share.

The complex piece of equipment that sends the signals for WFMZ, an independent station, along with PBS member station WLVT and independent religious station WBPH, is being carefully replaced from the site near the station’s primary facility on East Rock Road.

During the bulk of the work, the station broadcast its morning and noon newscasts on Oct. 6, 2022, from its alternate studio at PPL Center downtown. This has also given it a chance to test out how handling production entirely from the separate location would work in the event of a technical failure at the main facility.

Station management says that its new antenna includes capabilities for future broadcast stations, though it did not specify which ones, though its description on the station site has components of the ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV specifications. 

The process of installing the new antenna involves a helicopter. 

“The top section of the old tower comes off, a new top section goes on that’s built especially for this new antenna, and then the new antenna is lifted onto the tower,” said Barry Fisher, the station’s general manager, in a story posted on its website.

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The work has to be done in phases because the chopper can only carry a payload of around 6,500 lbs. 

“They can be completely operated from the facility at the PPL Center, without even being connected to the TV station,” Fisher said.

It’s also an opportunity to test out our backup facility.

Like many stations, WFMZ sold off its part of the spectrum in 2017 and entered into a channel-sharing arrangement with WLVT and WBPH to use Channel 9, though PSIP still maps Channel 69 to it.

The Allentown area is not technically its own market area, and has significant crossover into the Philadelphia and other regional markets, which is one of the reason the channel was originally assigned such a high channel number.

WFMZ produces a full schedule of local news and has almost devoted significant resources in it in order to compete with the Philly-area stations.

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