South Lane Television
In the early days of television, most TV was broadcast out of Portland. By the time the television signals made their way down to the south end of the Willamette Valley, they were very weak and difficult to pick up. When KVAL went on the air in Eugene in 1954, their signals were stronger, but they bounced off nearby hills so severely that their picture quality was also marginal. Community members and television dealers began to meet in the early 1950s to discuss what could be done to bring better television to Cottage Grove.
In 1956, after considerable community deliberation, South Lane Television, a non-profit organization, was formed with the goal of working with the Federal Communications Commission to develop an over-the-air television system for the benefit of viewers in rural communities west of the Rocky Mountains. South Lane Television was a leader in the translator movement and received one of the first licenses issued by the FCC in early 1957.
An engineering study showed great promise for a "translator system" emanating from Hansen Butte, a mile southeast of Cottage Grove, as the best solution for bringing good TV signals to Cottage Grove. Led by Cottage Grove Hospital Administrator, Fred Morse, money was raised to build SLTV's first three television translators on Hansen Butte, a 58-acre property leased from businessman Herman Peterson at a nominal rate. Ten years later, Mr. Peterson offered to sell the property to SLTV for a mere $10,000.
In the mid-1960s another fund raising was completed to rebuild the original black and white translators to accommodate the new color technology that was becoming the new standard in television broadcasting. Several new channels were also added during this time.
In the 1980s, South Lane Television received a grant from Pacific Power to build a small translator system at London Springs. And shortly thereafter, SLTV was asked to take over the three channel system at Dorena-Culp Creek. Also during this time period, SLTV's practice of asking for regular donations from viewers of the Cottage Grove system ended as SLTV entered into an agreement with the new cable provider to provide them with over-the-air signals for their cable system. This contract provided the income needed to keep the system on the air without viewers paying their voluntary $24 per year. Shortly after this time, a number of agreements with several cell telephone companies were entered into. This new revenue stream has allowed SLTV to expalnd service, convert the system from analog to digital, and keep up with FCC channel change mandates.
SLTV's Hansen Butte site is along I-5, situated at the right place to "look" north toward Eugene and down the I-5 "dogleg" to the southwest into Douglas County. As mentioned, the resulting cast flow from the cable and cellphone businesses allowed SLTV to eliminate the need for public donations. We receive no tax money and we don't receive grants. SLTV is operated by a volunteer board. Over the years, small amounts of excess money (beyond monthly operational expenses) was horded away to steadily improve the three systems.
With the coming of the digital age, new opportunities allowed SLTV to expand the translator service at all three sites to a level undreamed of just a few decades before. Broadcasters were required to convert from analog to digital signals, and SLTV stayed abreast of the developing technology. By extensively planning for such a conversion, new opportunities were found to greatly improve each SLTV system by utilizing the digital technology to its greatest extent. The Dorena-Culp Creek site continues to be our most challenging site. Because there is no commercial power at the site (Hawley Butte), SLTV has to depend on a solar system and wind generation our engineer designed to charge a bank of batteries. When these natural resources fail to provided enough power to the batteries, a propane generator kicks on to fully charge the system. Prior to the digital conversion, SLTV could only offer three channels on this system, but with our new system we now have eight channels on the air. At London we have improved our channels from five to 11. And South Lane Television's Hansen Butte site in Cottage Grove now has 36 channels of free over-the-air television available.