And considering the events of this week, "odd" may be an understatement.
Yeah, we're tiring rather rapidly of listing those tossed aside from the Good Ship Radio this week. For the moment, we'll lead with something not related to job loss...
THE ANALOG SHUFFLE: When local television stations figure out how they'll deal with cable systems and signal carriage, they have basically two choices.
Broadcasters can either demand "retransmission consent", which means they get some consideration (monetary, or carriage of related channels) from the cable system to permit them to carry their signal, or they can demand "must carry", which forces the cable system to carry their signal without compensation involved.
Stations like Trinity O&O WDLI/17 Canton choose the latter, and apparently, TBN pushed the issue going into 2009. WDLI landed on a whole truckload of Time Warner Cable systems it had not been on before, including the company's big Cleveland-based system.
And including Ashtabula, where an odd "one for one" trade prompted TWC to dump Erie PA PBS affiliate WQLN/54.
The Ashtabula Star-Beacon's Robert Lebzelter reports in an article last week that the cable company is partially acceding to subscriber pressure, and will bring back WQLN - for digital cable subscribers - in the Ashtabula/Conneaut/Geneva areas on February 18th.
The Erie PBS outlet says "that's not enough".
Lebzelter's article says WQLN officials continue to fight to return Channel 54 to the analog space it occupied until the addition of WDLI at the first of the year. Quoting:
Tom New, the station’s creative services director, said the cable giant is violating the must-carry law and wants it returned to the basic cable package.
“We believe that is unacceptable. We are still a local channel,” he said.
New said the station’s attorneys in Washington sent a letter Wednesday morning (1/14) both by U.S. mail and electronically, demanding to be returned to the basic lineup.
“Now we are in a holding pattern,” New said.
Time Warner Cable officials apparently have a different geographic view, citing that since the Ashtabula-area systems are fed out of Cleveland - WDLI gets the must carry designation and WQLN doesn't.
Ashtabula County is on the eastern edge of the Cleveland TV market, despite its proximity to Erie.
But the Erie PBS outlet points out that Ashtabula County is very much in its local service area, is closer to Erie, and they believe subscribers shouldn't be forced to pay for digital cable to watch the station.
Similar scenarios are being played out elsewhere in the Time Warner system, with the company dumping "duplicate" stations outside their market area - along with the general move from analog to digital.
And we note that practice isn't going over well with the Federal Communications Commission, according to this Associated Press article earlier this week:
The Federal Communications Commission is fining nine cable TV operators for attempting to thwart its investigation of a practice in which analog channels were transferred to a more expensive digital tier, leaving some customers without access.
We're wondering if this provided an avenue for WQLN in their effort to return to analog in the Ashtabula region.
This is not really directly related, but OMW feels the need to note that Time Warner Cable subscribers in Northwest Ohio lost their access to CBC television outlet CBET/9 Windsor, Ontario, Canada in the changes. CBET had long been on systems in Findlay and Bowling Green, camped out on analog channel 19.
We understand why it happened...but since we keep an eye on Canada, we're sad to see it'll be gone if we visit that part of the TWC footprint in the future.
As far as we know, CBET/CBC is still available on the Toledo-based Buckeye Cablesystem, including on its Erie County system based in Sandusky...
MORE DIGITAL, OR LESS?: This isn't necessarily a Northeast Ohio item, but it has one interesting local reference.
A recent Washington Post article talks about all the potential glitches regarding the nation's transition to digital television, which - at last check - is still set for February 17th. (Check back later, though. At last report, efforts to move the date to June 12th have apparently stalled in Congress...but, things could change.)
And among the concerns about signal strength and the like, comes this anecdotal item from a DC-area woman with relatives near here. Quoting:
Nicolle Singer, 29, of the District, said she is concerned that her retired parents, who live in a small Ohio town 60 miles west of Cleveland, will lose the channels they've come to rely on as a main source of news.
"They're annoyed because they feel like they're being forced to get satellite," she said. "Cable service isn't available where they live."
And her father is to reluctant to go on the roof of the two-story house in winter weather to replace the 20-year-old antenna with a stronger one.
OK, a few things.
One, we'll assume by the "60 miles west of Cleveland" location that Ms. Singer's parents live somewhere in in the Sandusky/Norwalk region. We don't know the area intimately, but we're surprised that there's even a small town that can't get service from Time Warner Cable's massive local system.
(Even so, Ms. Singer's parents are apparently - reluctantly - ready to sign up for satellite service...they're not all that happy about it, but they know it's an option.)
Two, we're wondering if that "20 year-old antenna" on the roof would still work, or if "a stronger (antenna)" means it's about to fall off the roof or fall apart, or if it's not enough to pick up the digital signals from the Parma antenna farm. We're wondering if they have tried it with a digital converter box, or just believe they are not expecting to get digital signals with it.
But it does reiterate a point we've made here before.
Cleveland is not the biggest sized market in the country, geographically. (We'd put a bet on Denver, which stretches into parts of Utah and we believe even parts of Montana.)
But the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) TV market is still pretty big, and there is still a possibility that even those with a modest roof antenna that far out will be unable to watch channels they used to receive in analog - probably with a coating of TV "snow".
We're talking digital here - either you have the signal, and it's perfect, or you lose the signal.
It's just a part of the transition, and no amount of delay in the date will fix that.
As we've said before, it'll be up to the local stations if they wish to employ digital TV fixes for areas like Sandusky, Mansfield/Ashland, Dover/New Philadelphia or Ashtabula, all on the edges of the Cleveland TV market. There are fixes available, including "distributed" TV boosters and digital translators.
(Our good friend Scott Fybush at NorthEast Radio Watch reports that a digital translator is already being used to good effect in the far flung Johnstown/Altoona PA market, extending one station's digital reach to State College - using PSIP to show WJAC/6's signal on a digital tuner as 6-1.)
In the end, the stations will have to decide whether it's worth "fixing" the outside ranges of the signal, given the small population in each area - and the small percentage of that population that doesn't have cable or satellite...
AND SOME BAD PRINT NEWS: You know we couldn't get too far from more layoff news, given the state of the economy and the collapsing media business.
This time, it's Ohio Print Media Watch, as OMW hears that Record Publishing has laid off as many as a dozen employees mostly at the Kent-Ravenna Record Courier daily newspaper.
We're told the R-C lost two reporters, two photographers (out of three), an advertising sales person, a classified ad taker, two circulation managers, and an ad designer, and that the company's weekly division in Stow let go "at least one other reporter/editor".
The layoffs - which happened January 12th - are being blamed, like everything, on the economy. We're told that the Ravenna-based newspaper has been particularly hard hit with a loss of display advertising from car dealers, and that there's only one car dealer even left in the Portage County seat.
OMW reported earlier that the paper shuttered its offices in Kent, part of a consolidation that sent most of the people (still left) to the R-C's Ravenna headquarters...