When KCTU-TV took down the big 5 from the studio sign in 2009, it broke.
They didn’t think they’d need it again because they were moving to Channel 43 on your television dial.
But last week, they moved back to Channel 5, and they’re wishing they’d been more careful with the sign.
“We paid over $200 for that plastic 5,” said Ron Nutt, who manages the small local station with his wife Sheryl. “We had an intern and when he took it off, he took it off in pieces. Now we’ll have to get another one.”
If you get your TV programming over the air, now would be a good time to rescan the channels on your set.
Several channels in Wichita have moved to new dial locations in recent months and you may have noticed some black screens popping up where you used to have programming.
It’s not your set. The channels are still there, but they’ve moved to different frequencies.
The channels moved under orders from the Federal Communications Commission, which auctioned off the part of the broadcast spectrum that had been carrying the upper channels of UHF television.
T-Mobile picked up swaths of frequencies – including KCTU’s Channel 43 – for future phone and data services, Nutt said.
With the move back to Channel 5, KCTU has expanded to 10 subchannels. It’s an eclectic mix of old movies and classic TV shows, hunting and fishing shows, music video, religion and Russian and Spanish programming.
Locally produced offerings include “Your Hour,” a local talk show, and “Mouthy Broads,” which is kind of like a Wichita-centric version of “The View.”
It’s the third time in 15 years that the station has switched places on the television dial. It went from 55 to 5, from 5 to 43, and now back to 5.
Five is actually a “virtual channel” now, said Sheryl Nutt. The station is actually broadcasting on what used to be UHF channel 23, but a digital sleight of hand makes it appear as Channel 5 on your TV set.
All Wichita stations are now broadcast on UHF channels, although several use virtual channeling to keep their familiar spots on the dial and avoid confusing viewers.
KCTU’s new transmitter cost about $100,000. That’s not a lot for a chain-owned station, but it stings at an independent shoestring operation, Sheryl Nutt said.
“The FCC always does what they can to make life miserable for low-power TV,” she said.
But on the upside, the new transmitter and antenna give the station higher power and longer reach, she said.
KCTU’s new transmitter pumps out 1,200 watts, twice the power the station had on 43.
While it’s a fraction of the wattage a full-power station puts out, the signal strengths are comparable in most of Wichita because the high-powered stations are farther from the city, mostly clustered around Colwich.
KCTU transmits from the roof of the Garvey Center tower in downtown Wichita.
The station is also installing a fiber-optic line to its studio, on Douglas just east of the I-135 freeway, Ron Nutt said.
That will allow the station to replace its sometimes-balky microwave hookup, cleaning up the picture and allowing for high-definition broadcasting on some channels, he said.
The switch back to Channel 5 wasn’t a total loss, he said.
For example, the studio desk on the Mouthy Broads’ set still had a 5 on it. All they had to do was turn a panel around.
Also, they still have jackets with 5s on them and they didn’t get around to repainting the production van, so it still has a 5 on the side, Ron Nutt said.
R.J. Dickens, the station’s creative services manager, said he’s glad the Nutts decided to go back to being Channel 5.
“It makes things easier,” he said. “I already had the logo so I didn’t have to create a new one like I would have for 23.”
KCTU-TV 5 Channel lineup
Type of programming
Movies, classic TV, Wichita-based talk shows
Spanish language shows
Cooking, health, trends
Hunting, fishing, cars
Tabernacle of Praise
Popular shows from the 1960s and '70s
Programming from Russia