WKYT to upgrade its over-the-air signal

Over-the-air TV viewers who have been unable to watch Lexington's CBS affiliate, WKYT (Channel 27), since the digital switch could have the problem resolved soon.

The station is ready to power up a signal tower that will broadcast the channel in UHF, or ultra-high frequency, a signal that is compatible with all home antennas on the market. Barring technical problems, the station will begin testing the new transmitter Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, said Mike Kanarek, WKYT's vice president of operations.

But the official switch to the new transmitter will not happen until 1 p.m. Sept. 1. The old transmitter will be turned off then, and the station will operate only on the new UHF transmitter.

WKYT will have a phone bank, reachable at 1-800-500-1513, set up 1 to 9 p.m. Sept. 1 to help customers who are having problems.

After 1 p.m. Sept. 1, all over-the-air customers, even those who currently receive WKYT, will need to re-scan their TVs or digital converter boxes to find the new channel.

Cable and satellite TV customers will not be affected by the switch and will not need to do anything. "If people are watching us on cable or satellite, ... the provider will make the switch," Kanarek said.

Figuring out how to scan might be difficult for some customers, since scanning can vary by make and model of TVs or digital converter boxes. Some TVs can be scanned by unplugging the set and plugging it back in. Others have a scan button on the set or the remote control.

If you have trouble scanning, Kanarek said, user manuals should tell you how to do it.

For the past eight years, a couple of years after the Federal Communications Commission began planning for the digital switch, WKYT was "simulcasting" two signals: a UHF analog signal and a VHF, or very high frequency, digital signal.

When the switch to digital television went live in June 2009, requiring all customers to have a digital TV or digital converter box, WKYT turned off its UHF analog signal, which some customers were still depending on for service.

"When we turned off analog last spring, that's when everyone said, 'Wait a minute, where did you go?" Kanarek said.

After learning that many customers in their service area could not receive the VHF signal, either because they didn't have a VHF antenna or because VHF signals are more prone to interference that can ruin a digital picture, WKYT petitioned the FCC to switch back to a UHF signal.

The FCC granted permission to do so in January, Kanarek said. It has taken about seven months to build, install and test the necessary equipment.

For viewers, the only thing they need to do is figure out how to scan their digital TV or digital converter box.

"Once they re-scan, they will find us as Channel 27," Kanarek said.