By Mickey Winfield: PNT Staff Writer
Many current and former Eastern New Mexico University Broadcast Center employees say it’s about time.
Today at 2 p.m., a ribbon will be cut on the new ENMU broadcast center, directly across from the old building. The new facility will replace the 32-year old building that housed KENW-TV and KENW-FM radio.
KENW director of operations Orlando Ortega is excited about the new building.
“It’s always nice to be able to work in a brand new facility,” said Ortega, also the mayor of Portales. “It’s also a great opportunity for students who are interested in a broadcasting career.”
Director of broadcasting and general manager Duane Ryan says the new building upgrades ENMU’s state and national standing among schools with a broadcasting education.
“There’s no doubt about it, with the new building, we will have, by far and away, the finest-equipped facility allowing students to participate — really, in much of the country — but certainly in New Mexico,” Ryan said.
Ryan says the preparation of News 3 New Mexico, including editing of all news stories and news-gathering, already takes place in the new building. All administrative offices have also moved in, but digital production of local shows will have to wait.
The FCC has mandated all stations must convert to an all-digital signal by early 2009, while maintaining an analog signal until that time. Because of federal regulations, Ryan said this new building is coming at just the right time.
“Many stations are having to convert to digital,” Ryan said, “and if you’re in the same building, that means you’ve got to build a second station while you keep the other one on the air.”
Ryan also said that once all digital preparations are complete in about a year, the station will make the switch from analog to digital.
“We won’t ever have to interrupt any of our broadcasts,” Ryan said. “It just makes life a lot easier (for us).”
Another benefit of the new facility is that the studios are soundproof, and furnished with a specially designed central air conditioning system. The old building had a swamp cooler system, Ryan said, but it was noisy and could easily interfere with shows that were being taped.
“These new studios are soundproof, they are also air-conditioned,” Ryan said. “So that all the time you are shooting, the air conditioning can run, and it’s very, very silent, so it doesn’t interfere with your taping.”
The building itself comes at a price of $5.2 million. All digital equipment will be phased into the building over the next five to seven years, at a cost of about $3 million, to bring the total cost of ENMU’s new broadcast center to a little more than $8 million dollars. Most of the funding came from the state Legislature and general obligation bonds.
“The main thing is in trying to find the dollars to do it, and the state legislature has been very supportive, so we’re grateful there,” Ryan said.
Seven programs are produced locally at KENW-TV, and will be produced digitally in the new broadcast center in the next year including: “You Should Know”, “Creative Living”, “SportsLook”, “Cultura”, “Today’s Topic”, “Report from Santa Fe”, and “News 3 New Mexico.”