Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Terrestrial superstation blogging – – Luken

There are a lot of over the air television stations available in Los Angeles. The last time I helped someone set up an antenna, we were able to pull in 170. Now, most of these are probably channels that you would never watch. English is the language of the plurality but not the majority. Quite a few (though possibly less than you might expect) are shopping channels and their are a few duplicates, stations that appear to or three times on multiple points of the dial.

As the familiar disclaimer reads, individual user experiences may vary. The number and reliability of the channels you will receive is primarily dependent on your location, quality of your antenna, and whether or not you are in the position to put it up on the roof. In some places, you can pull in well over 100 channels with a $.99 pair of rabbit ears. For most parts of town, you'll probably need to spring for a $30 amplified indoor antenna (or hook your TV up to and unamplified outdoor antenna if it still up there after all these years). If you happen to be deep in a canyon or on the wrong side of a mountain (which happens quite a bit around here) you might want to spend the $50-$100 for a good external amplified model.

Personally, I have found you hit a point of diminishing returns somewhere in the middle, and I have never spent more than 35 bucks for a set up.

Even with the best of setups, however, there are still likely to be a few low-powered channels that you never seem to pick up. These LPT the stations tend to collect the more low-budget entries. As compared with the top end of the spectrum exemplified by Weigel Broadcasting and the major studio affiliated channels that prominently feature older but still A-list material like M*A*S*H or Columbo or films from notable directors such as John Ford, Billy Wilder, or Mel Brooks, the poverty row stations generally rely on public domain material, justly forgotten bottom-of-the-catalog shows (such as the Barkleys), and a great deal of Canadian television.

Weigel is the undisputed King of the top end of the spectrum; Luken Broadcasting is arguably the king of poverty row (sort of like a modern day Monogram Studios). With Weigel you get something like NYPD Blue. With Luken, it's more likely to be Police Surgeon (if you were a serious television buff, you'd have heard of this one, but not in a good way).

Luken's networks are filled with absolutely the cheapest programming possible, but they do deserve credit for some real innovation, particularly when it comes to new themes for terrestrial superstations. In addition to Retro TV (a poor man's MeTV), Luken offers a family channel, and outdoors channel, a country music channel, and a gearhead channel. I don't believe I can pick up any of these channels and, even if I could, I probably wouldn't spend much time watching them (though I will admit to a morbid curiosity about whether police surgeon is as bad as everyone says), but it is good that they are out there somewhere.

As we have mentioned many times before, 21st century media has serious monopoly and monopsony issues. Putting aside YouTube for the moment (though that to brings up monopoly and monopsony issues), both content providers and consumers have to rely on a tiny group of major media and telecommunication companies, companies that are both ethically challenged and badly run. Over-the-air television offers an invaluable alternative, a way for independent companies to get stations direct to consumers, and it gives consumers a low or no cost media option.

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