Breckenridge, CO translators may go dark over failing power line


Broadcast TowerMany of the FM and all of over-the-air TV stations available in Summit County/Breckenridge/Silverthorne, CO are in jeopardy, says The Summit Daily News. An aging, two-mile power line that services a Bald Mountain-based translator site is reaching the end of its life.

The price tag to replace the line is an estimated $250,000, well outside the budget of the $50,000-per-year nonprofit Summit Public Radio and TV (SPRTV) that manages the site.

“It’s just a fact, either the power line gets replaced before it fails, or we go out of business,” SPRTV board president Suzanne Greene told the Summit County Board of County Commissioners at a recent meeting. “If we go out of business, so go the radio stations and the TV stations.”

SPRTV provides FM radio stations including KUVO-FM, a jazz, blues and NPR news station out of Denver; AAA KBCO-FM (97.3) Denver/Boulder, KSKE-FM, the local country western station out of Avon, CO; as well as Spanish-language stations and others. The nonprofit also rebroadcasts TV stations, including PBS, TV 8 Summit, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and its Antenna TV multicast feed.

Summit County would no longer receive any of the stations if the power line were to fail.

SPRTV’s biggest expense every year is maintaining the more than 30-year-old power line, which is suffering ongoing damage due to weather, the freeze-thaw cycle and underground animals in the area. In 2010, a consultant evaluated the line and determined it had five to 10 years left before it failed altogether, board members said.

“If we’re spending that kind of money every year fixing something that’s close to the end of its usable lifetime, how much money are we throwing away?” County Commissioner Thomas Davidson said at the meeting.

The commissioners said they consider the SPRTV’s channels to be important to the county and agreed to support the nonprofit in finding a solution to the problem, first by assigning county staff to further investigate the issue.

Officials also discussed relocating the current rebroadcast equipment to another place in the county. SPRTV representatives indicated moving would likely be more expensive than replacing the power line.

SPRTV board members are working with Xcel Energy on the problem, although they said they are far from reaching any kind of agreement. Board members said they can do some private fundraising to help cover some of the cost of replacing the power line.

“We need to work with the county government to come up with a solution,” Boardmember Don Danker, the organization’s business advisor, said. “It’s very important for us to continue to provide public radio stations and TV stations for the county.”

SPRTV is supported primarily by donations from viewers and listeners. The organization does not receive any funding from local or state governments or the channels it rebroadcasts.

See the Summit Daily News story here

RBR-TVBR observation: Two other options are to sell local ad insertions for the TV and FM stations (which are done at many translator sites in mountain communities) and go to the stations themselves for some help/funding. If the site goes dark, their ratings in the Denver DMA may be impacted.