Harpswell TV needs cash to meet modern rules, continue broadcasting

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HARPSWELL — The town’s community television station could be forced off the air if it can’t raise $200,000 in three years.

“We’d still be putting out onto the Internet, but we would not be able to broadcast,” David Chipman, vice president of Harpswell Community TV, said. “Those people would no longer be able to get it.”

Harpswell Community Broadcasting Corp. is a nonprofit, commercial-free, educational TV station broadcasting on UHF Channel 14.

The Federal Communications Commission is requiring all low-power TV broadcast stations to convert from analog to digital broadcast signals by July 2015.

“If you have enjoyed our programming, please consider a donation,” Donna Frisoli, the station’s program manager, said.

For the average viewer, the television viewing experience won’t change much in 2015. But the upgrade is costly for small-town television stations that have a hard enough time existing within their weekly budgets.

About half of the $200,000 has already been raised, Chipman said. Nearly all of that has come from a capital improvement fund established by the town five years ago, and from Comcast cable TV.

Chipman said that he is reluctant to pursue further major funding from Harpswell’s taxpayers.

“There are a lot of ways to fundraise,” he said. “We may try a pledge drive or auction. We’re hoping that people in other communities that watch us and enjoy our programming won’t think it’s just a Harpswell fundraiser, that they will contribute.”

Last week, the company also received a grant of $5,000 from the Maine Broadcasters Foundation.

The fundraising goal has been set to upgrade the transmitter from analog to digital, and to replace other outdated equipment.

“Most of the stuff is at least 10 years old,” Chipman said. “When you’re talking about electronics and computers, not only are they breaking down, but they’re obsolete. We’re looking at upgrading to the modern world.”

When the renovations and upgrade are complete, he said, “the tower and the building are the only two things that won’t change.”

Major broadcasting organizations made the switch form analog to digital in June 2009.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or matthh@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hh_matt.