Thursday, February 05, 2009

More Digital TV Date Fallout

We promise...we've got some other items in the hopper, which will show up later today.

But the about-to-be-changed national digital TV transition date still dominates the headlines, and we're still tracking fallout from it locally and regionally. The date change bill is expected to be signed by President Obama sometime in the next day or two, then the FCC will be tasked with quickly writing rules to put it into place.

Though Local TV-owned WJW/8 "FOX 8" in Cleveland is still the only TV station in the market filing to switch to all-digital on the previously-set February 17th date, all commercial stations in at least one Ohio market will stick to the original date to shut off their analog transmitters.

That market would be Dayton, where LIN TV NBC affiliate WDTN/2 joins the February 17th shutoff parade - with Cox CBS affiliate WHIO/7, the Sinclair duopoly of ABC affiliate WKEF/22 and Fox affiliate WRGT/45, and Acme CW affiliate WBDT/26 already on the list.

(WBDT actually filed its silent STA before the recent rush prompted by the date change talk...due to engineering needs to convert its existing transmitter to digital. Their original analog silent date was January 20th, but since we're not in the market, we don't know if that signal has gone dark already.)

Two bi-state markets serving Ohio will also go early: Wheeling/Steubenville (WTRF/7 and WTOV/9) and Parkersburg/Marietta (WTAP/15, the TV home of OMW reader and weekend sports anchor Anthony Lima).

Speaking of Lima (the city, that is, not the sportscaster), that city's only full-power network affiliate has also filed to dump analog on February 17th - Block NBC affiliate WLIO/35 accedes to its existing digital channel 8. That's where WJW's digital signal will also land, but there's not expected to be any interference between the two signals which are already running side by side...WLIO's digital 8 and WJW's current analog 8.

Lima's other network affiliates are all low-power outlets not affected by the mandatory transition, either in February or June, and are in the process of being purchased by WLIO owner Block.

We have heard that Vindicator NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 has announced that it will be the only analog station in the Youngstown market staying on the air until the new transition date of June 12th. New Vision combo WKBN/27-(Parkin Broadcasting LMA) WYTV/33 have filed for February 17th, and Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 has been digital-only since November.

The steady stream of stations filing to make the transition at the original date later this month has apparently caught the attention of West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller, one of the major proponents of the date change.

Broadcasting & Cable reports that
Rockefeller is urging stations to "put consumers first". Quoting him in the article:

"While broadcasters are still permitted to move forward on February 17, and some will do so, I hope that many will think of the needs of their customers and carefully weigh their options. This bill gives them an opportunity to stay the course through to June 12 until more help can be put in place."

Sen. Rockefeller might have noticed that in his home state, full-power analog TV will basically disappear on February 17th, as nearly every full-power station in West Virginia has filed to take their analog signals dark on that original date.

Local broadcasting giant West Virginia Media Holdings is leading the way, along with Gray Television, which owns many stations in the state. On our list above, WVMH owns Wheeling's WTRF, and Gray owns Parkersburg's WTAP. Both companies have much enthusiasm for digital TV, running various subchannels offering networks like ABC and MyNetwork TV to their audiences.

We don't fully understand, at this point, if there's anything in the way of stations filing to take analog silent on February 17th.

It would appear that right now, there isn't...because the new transition date bill has language clearly acceding to the existing ability for stations to voluntarily take analog dark earlier than even February 17th. (And if there was some thought that this early move ability could be held up, we suspect Sen. Rockefeller would not be making his pleas.)

Nationwide, stations in markets like San Diego, Providence and Cedar Rapids have all coordinated market-wide analog shutoffs for February 17th.

And Tribune - closely associated with WJW owner Local TV - has filed for a big early analog shutoff...for its flagship station, CW affiliate WGN/9 in Chicago.

We mostly bring this up because we're confused - why does Tribune's WGN America superstation run specially made analog shutoff PSAs?

WGN America is not a direct rebroadcast of the over-air WGN, and has not been for many years. It airs some of the Chicago station's newscasts, but the spots we've seen for the DTV transition were specifically made for WGN America. And as far as we know, the national channel doesn't run WGN's local Chicago spots anyway.

Anyway, unless there's something up the FCC's sleeve that we haven't seen yet, it appears the June 12th transition date may have an asterisk aside it...

1 comment:

emery_r said...

Nothing really new to add to the comments about Dayton -- it does appear they're going in lock-step into the digital future, with all stations ready to dump analog on Feb. 17, no matter what Congress did to allow the transition to drag into June.

It's interesting, though, that Cincinnati stations aren't ready to do likewise, since ALL stations haven't officially (or at least publicly) committed to shutting off analog signals on Feb. 17.

I'd sure like to know, firmly and finally, whether any stations in Dayton or Cincy will have greater power or different signal coverage areas AFTER the digital transition. Yes, there is info available on etc., but that doesn't appear to be definitive. For example, until yesterday, I had no idea Dayton's WHIO-7 needed to take down a temporary digital antenna AND its analog antenna before installing a permanent digital antenna in their places on Feb. 17. My question: does this new digital antenna bode any change/improvement in their digital signal? WHIO doesn't say.

Who else will see major changes? WKRC-12 in Cincy will move from 31 back to 12 with their digital signal, so I expect some surprises after some dutifully re-scan their digital boxes following Feb. 17. What other surprises, pleasant or otherwise, might crop up in southwest Ohio and elsewhere?