After multiple delays, Indiana station aims to restore service next month

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Suspected vandalism has prolonged the outage of a PBS station’s transmitter in northwest Indiana after storm damage took it off air last month.

Lakeshore PBS’ troubles started July 16, according to a statement on its website. A storm damaged its transmitter, forcing the station to go off the air. Lakeshore PBS determined the transmitter was damaged beyond repair and began the process of purchasing a new one.

But transmitters are hard to come by these days. The FCC’s spectrum auction and the ensuing repacking have put transmitters in high demand as stations place orders for new equipment, according to Lakeshore PBS.

The station reverted to a backup plan and began installing a temporary low-power transmitter Aug. 3 at its site in Cedar Lake, a rural area southwest of the station’s headquarters in Merrillville. Engineers began working to install it right away, but another delay came when a communication error kept the new transmitter from working.

An engineering team then “discovered what appeared to be multiple faults in the transmission lines” Aug. 4, according to Lakeshore PBS. The faults prevented the temporary transmitter from operating properly. Lakeshore PBS said it believes vandals caused the damage overnight Aug. 3.

The mishaps have amounted to a “perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances,” Matt Franklin, VP of TV operations, said in the statement.

“It wasn’t just one thing, it was many, the age of the transmitter, a new engineering team, the spectrum auction and the vandalism — all happening at once to keep us off the air so much longer than we ever could have expected,” Franklin said.

Lakeshore PBS’ full-power transmitter is scheduled to take six to eight weeks to build and will be delivered Sept. 26, storms and vandals notwithstanding.

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