Tuesday, September 23, 2008

WNEO's Early Change

Northeast Ohio has already seen one full-power analog TV station go dark months before the federally mandated digital transition, though the change has affected only a small part of the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) market. Mansfield local independent station WMFD/68 won approval to go digital-only due to various issues regarding the replacement of its analog facility/antenna. WMFD-DT (RF 12) no longer has an analog 68 sister.

In what's no surprise to regular OMW readers, we're not long from the date where the region's second analog station will go dark.

That station is Alliance-licensed PBS affiliate WNEO/45, which will "flash cut" its analog signal on channel 45 to a digital signal. WNEO is the Youngstown market half of "PBS 45 & 49", broadcasting from a tower in Salem.

And the folks at PBS 45 & 49 - slated to become "Western Reserve PBS" - are getting out the word to Youngstown area viewers:

Because of related engineering upgrades that need to be made to the station’s Salem transmitter, there will be times during the first three weeks of November when the WNEO channels will be off air. Finally, the WNEO analog signal will permanently go off the air on Wednesday, Nov. 19, three months ahead of the national analog shut-off date, in preparation for the conversion to all-digital channels.

The complete timetable is at the link above.

There will be a couple of days after the November 19th analog shutoff for WNEO - where the station won't be broadcasting either on analog 45 or digital 45...but the station says it'll continue to feed cable/satellite viewers in that two day construction period. (The "49" half of the combo, Akron's WEAO, is not affected, and will continue broadcasting on both analog and digital.)

The station filed an application with the FCC for this early transition plan months ago. OMW originally noted it in an item we posted back in February.

Again, for Cleveland/Akron/Canton viewers, none of the early shutoff activities noted here will affect WEAO/49.

That station will continue to broadcast on analog 49 *and* WEAO-DT (RF 50, 49.1/2), through February 17, 2009, when analog 49 will join all the other analog full-power stations in the country and will sign off.

WEAO-DT is staying on RF 50, though it will continue to appear on digital sets as "49", and so the Akron station has no need to "flash cut" or sunset the analog signal early.

This activity in November only affects Youngstown market viewers who depend on over-air signals from WNEO. WNEO is abandoning its current pre-transition digital channel, 46, for its current analog RF channel 45...again, a "flash cut" not needed in Akron. (Copley Township, technically.)

One November change does affect both WNEO and its Cleveland/Akron market sister, WEAO. On November 1st, both WNEO-DT 45.1 and WEAO-DT 49.1 will change from the 24/7 PBS HD feed, to a high-definition simulcast of the station's main schedule.

Of course, this doesn't change non-HD programming into HD, but the new 45.1/49.1 will act much like the main channel of other network affiliates...when there's HD, it'll show up there. Shows not in HD will be upconverted. We believe this is a change being made at the national PBS level.

45.2/49.2 will not go away on November 1st, but will cease being an SD simulcast of 45/49 at the February transition...as other subchannels are planned.

The station also notes that analog translator W58AM Youngstown, a simulcast of WNEO intended for the low-lying areas of the Mahoning Valley, will continue in analog even past the February 17 transition date. Low-power stations and translators are not affected by the full-power transition, and any digital conversion they do is voluntary.

OMW has noted that W58AM has a companion digital construction permit... since it's a companion, and not a flash cut, WNEO/WEAO could theoretically sign on the digital RF 44 signal of the current W58AM while keeping 58 in analog, but it doesn't sound like they're preparing for that right away.

If you're confused by this, feel free to contact PBS 45 & 49. The station has set up E-Mail and toll-free help lines - 1-877-DTV4PBS or dtv4pbs@wneo.org.

And WNEO/WEAO/Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio/Western Reserve Public Media/Western Reserve PBS (whew!) president and CEO Trina Cutter continues to hold her "Get Ready for DTV: Tuesdays With Trina" free presentations.

The next one is tonight at 6:30 at Austintown Branch Library, 600 S. Raccoon Road...followed by one next Tuesday at Columbiana Public Library, 332 N. Middle St. Registration is recommended, but not required, by calling 1-800-554-4549.

The station says you can also call that number if you have questions about the DTV transition, and WNEO's early analog shutoff.

By the way, we hear the station's new "Western Reserve PBS" branding is set to hit the airwaves on October 1st...


Scott said...

I believe PBS is abandoning its separate HD feed, transitioning its main program feed to full HD in the process.

n-dizzle said...

That sucks! That is exactly what I like about PBS HD now. It is almost all HD programming and there isn't any local garbage mixed in. Although I'm sure that's the very thing local management hates: not getting to beg for money on the HD channel as well.