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Sinclair to Buy Dielectric

Senior staff and management retained

Sinclair Broadcast Group is buying the assets of Dielectric for “an immaterial and leverage neutral purchase price,” the TV station group said. Dielectric is the nation’s largest supplier of TV transmission antennas.

Dieletric parent corporation, SPX of Charlotte, N.C., announced in April that it would shutter the antenna-maker on June 29. The announcement came just two weeks after the FCC issued a freeze on all full-power and Class A TV station modification applications.

“News of Dielectric’s impending closing brought about by the Federal Communication Commission’s freeze on engineering license applications caused concern throughout the TV and radio industry,” Sinclair President and CEO David Smith said.

Upwards of two-thirds of the full-power TV stations in the United States use Dielectric antennas, according to a researcher at Cavell Mertz. The company is also the industry’s major supplier of transmission line, mask filters, combiners and related equipment. Dielectric also conducted engineering studies for transmission facility build-outs. The impending closure raised the alarm on the post-incentive auction TV station repacking. Gary Cavell of Cavell, Mertz & Associates said it would be virtually impossible to do a channel repack in the Congressionally mandated three-year period without Dielectric.

“There’s not an inventory just lying there,” Cavell said in April. “Even if Dielectric were still in business, you would still have to ramp up production, train people, import the brass, the copper, the materials…. and not that many antenna crews are certified to work more than 500 feet above the ground. Those guys have scattered.”

Smith said Sinclair “could not stand by and have a long-time supplier of our most critical infrastructure not be there to support and maintain the equipment. We decided that someone in the industry had to step in, and we were the logical choice given our in-house RF engineering expertise and our ownership of Acrodyne Services, which installs and services broadcast transmitters and mobile DTV upgrades. Further, if and when a spectrum repack occurs, Dielectric will be there to support that effort.”

That repack would be triggered by the spectrum incentive auction of TV licenses, tentatively scheduled for next June. The auction is incumbent upon voluntary broadcaster participation. Preston Padden, executive director of a group of anonymous stations planning to participate, said recently that membership totals 70, some in the country’s largest markets.

Sinclair said that Dielectric’s new and existing products will continue to be supported by the Dielectric staff, including Keith Pelletier, the general manager, and the senior sales and support team. The 70-year-old company will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sinclair. The management and senior staff will remain in place, and operations will remain at the present location in the Town of Raymond, 22 miles north of Portland.

Related: “Dielectric Demise Raises Repacking Alarm
The number of broadcasters that will be moved to new frequencies remains unknown, because the auction is designed so stations can participate anonymously. The estimate of participating stations now stands at around 200 out of some 1,735 full-power licensees. The FCC’s goal of reclaiming TV Chs. 31-51 would require 672 full-power TV stations either to be moved or shut down, according to a study by the National Association of Broadcasters. A total of 174 stations were relocated in 2009.