Coming soon to a TV near you: Improvements that will make Selective TV’s signal more reliable, less expensive to operate and add a new channel that will alert viewers of any changes or disruptions to the system.

Based in Alexandria, Selective TV is a non-profit viewer supported organization developed more than 40 years ago to bring multiple, unscrambled Selective TV to Douglas County and the surrounding area.

The system is member support and relies on viewers’ fees, which amount to $120 annually for 60 channels.

Lonnie Wing, a member of the Selective TV Board, explained how Selective TV works:

“We receive over-the-air transmissions from television broadcasters whose signals do not reach the Alexandria area and then rebroadcast those signals into the Alexandria area, hence Selective TV is what is called a UHF translator,” he said. “As you dig into the technology of how this is accomplished, it gets quite complicated and expensive, but that is basically what Selective TV does.”

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How it started

Selective TV was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1976 and went on the air in 1979. At that time there was only one reliable over-the-air television station in the Alexandria area.

Selective TV was organized by local people who, through local fundraising efforts, were able to launch the system. Back then, and as it is today, the funds that make this possible come from viewers through voluntary membership contributions.

“Without those contributions, Selective TV could not exist,” Wing said.

As the years passed and Selective TV’s story got lost, the number of members declined and the corporation reached a critical point about five years ago, according to Wing.

“Since then the board of directors has made a concerted effort to get the Selective TV story back out there so that viewers understand how this thing works, and understand that if membership continued to decline along with the contributions there was a very real possibility that over-the-air television would no longer be a viable viewing choice in the Alexandria area,” Wing said.

The efforts paid off, Wing added, and Selective TV is in a much better financial position today.

“Still, we are not where we should be,” Wing said. “Far too many people take it for granted, or don’t understand how it works, or simply take advantage of the honor system Selective TV depends on.”

The improvements

The original Selective TV receive system consisted of three towers – one outside of Avon, one near Sauk Centre and one outside of Garfield. The signals were passed from one tower to the next and were eventually transmitted into the area by the Garfield tower.

About 10 years ago, the receive system was upgraded.

“We established a receive station in St. Cloud, signals then traveled via fiber optic to downtown Alexandria,” Wing said. “They were then transmitted via microwave to the Garfield tower where they were processed and then transmitted back out into our area.”

The new system just put into place consists of a new receive station at the KSTP building in the Twin Cities, which is much closer to the source of those signals. The signals are then transmitted directly to the Garfield tower via fiber optic with no “handoffs” in a direct line between the receive station in the Twin Cites to the Selective TV transmitter building near Garfield.

“When you eliminate links in a transmission chain, as we have now done, you dramatically reduce the possibility of problems that can and do occur at each of those links – problems ranging from equipment failure to weather related interference,” Wing said. “The new system is a much more stable, reliable, and expandable system. This new system also has some redundancy built into it meaning that signals can be rerouted should a problem arise in one segment of the transmission line.”

Wing said the new receive system has been under consideration by the Selective TV Board for some time and will take Selective TV into the future in a much stronger position to better serve local over-the-air television viewers.

“And the frosting on the cake is that the new system is less expensive to operate than the one it replaced,” Wing said.

New channel

The other recent development is the establishment of a Selective TV channel, STV 1.1.

This new channel is basically an on-air bulletin board, which provides Selective TV with a way to directly communicate with viewers.

“Up to this point, we have relied on our website, Facebook, and local media to alert viewers of any changes or issues they needed to know about,” Wing said. “With the launch of STV 1.1, we can now provide that information quickly and in a way that is accessible to every viewer. STV 1.1 also provides viewers with a seven-day weather forecast and current weather conditions.”

Over its 40-year history Selective TV has been and always will be a non-profit community asset operated and funded locally, Wing said.

“Technology will continue to change but the need for affordable access to television has not changed,” Wing said. “In fact, the use of over the air television nationally and locally has risen dramatically over the last decade. The Selective TV Board encourages every viewer to do their part in making sure Selective TV is there to meet that demand into the future.

To learn more, visit the Selective TV website – selectivetv.org – go to the Selective TV Facebook page, or contact the Selective TV office at 320-763-5924.