Thursday, March 19, 2009

Your Digital TV Update

With the FCC laying down its latest guidelines for the Digital TV transition, the agency has now identified which stations will be signing off earlier than the new June 12 deadline for all full-power analog stations to shut down.

(Unless the government changes its mind again in May or so.)

And in most areas, including Northeast Ohio, the list (FCC PDF link here) doesn't come as any surprise.

In the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) TV market, only Trinity Broadcasting O&O WDLI/17 Canton has elected to leave the analog airwaves early - on April 16th. It joins a number of other TBN stations in choosing that date, the first date commercial stations will be able to make the early/pre-June 12 analog shutdown.

Despite language in a recently filed STA request that suggested an early transition, ION Media WVPX/23 Akron has filed that it will stay on in analog until the new deadline in June. And for WVPX, "transition" is somewhat accurate, as ION will have to flash cut onto current analog channel 23.

The WDLI move would theoretically pave the way for Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 to light up its new digital channel 17 facility after April 16, but it doesn't appear likely that the long-delayed new WKYC/WVIZ tower would be finished that soon.

WKYC, like all other major commercial stations in the Cleveland market, will shut off its analog signal on June 12. It would appear from the timing that WKYC would likely make the digital RF 2-to-digital RF 17 switch that same day, but that's just a guess. And all of this assumes that tower at the WKYC site on Broadview Road in Parma will be completed before June 12.

A quick look through the early shutoff list shows that nearly all of Ohio's commercial stations still running analog are keeping it going until June 12...except for one station, Steubenville Cox NBC affiliate WTOV/9, which intends to join its only competitor (West Virginia Media CBS/Fox/ABC affiliate WTRF/7) in digital-only land on April 16.

Like WTRF did, WTOV is eyeing a digital transition to its current analog channel, and has a construction permit to do so.

Will the WTOV filing be approved by the FCC, which is still applying scrutiny to markets where no major network affiliates are in analog, even in "nightlight" mode?

WTOV's form to request the April 16 cutoff is very interesting.

The station is relying upon an option on the form few knew about - pointing out that its Grade B contour would continue to get analog service from two out-of-market stations until June 12.

Qouting the language on the form, where WTOV checked:

Licensee CERTIFIES that the above-referenced station will RELY on the following major network affiliated station(s) to provide continuing full analog television service to its analog viewers until June 12, 2009, and that the station(s) listed individually or collectively cover, at a minimum, 90% of the population in the Grade B analog contour of the above-referenced station; and, therefore, the station does NOT need to comply with the public interest related conditions for early analog termination set forth in the Commission Report and Order, FCC 09-19, adopted March 13, 2009:

The two stations cited by WTOV as carrying the analog torch for viewers? Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 out of Cleveland, and CBS O&O KDKA/2 Pittsburgh.

On the non-commercial side of things, a number of Ohio stations are opting for early shutoff of their analog signals. Here's the list:

COLUMBUS: PBS affiliate WOSU/34, and sister WPBO/42 Portsmouth (3/31)

PBS affiliates WCET/48 and ThinkTV Cincinnati market PBS outlet WPTO/14 Oxford (both 5/1), along with nearby Kentucky Educational TV affiliates WCVN/Covington KY and WKON/Owenton (both 4/16)

DAYTON: WPTO ThinkTV sister WPTD/16 (also 5/1)

The PBS affiliates in the Youngstown market (Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 Alliance) and Toledo market (WGTE/30 and Bowling Green State University's WBGU/27) signed off analog some time ago. In the Cleveland market, both WVIZ/25 and WEAO/49 will keep analog going until June 12.

Trinity Broadcasting O&O's WKOI/43 Richmond IN (Dayton/Cincinnati) and WSFJ/51 Newark (Columbus) are also on the list to shut off early - on April 16, along with sister WDLI/17 Canton (as noted above).

And in WDLI's case, shutting off that aging analog transmitter out on U.S. 62 near Louisville, in eastern Stark County, may well be a mercy killing. It's been limping along for years, with WDLI's fancy digital facility near Akron's Rolling Acres Mall overshadowing it for some time.

By the way, we know some readers - especially those with little TV interest - glaze their eyes over at these updates.

As we get closer to the currently-still-valid June 12 transition date, OMW will create a separate blog to solely focus upon digital TV issues...particularly if the transition ends up being as newsy as it was when the date was being moved.

The tentative start of our new blog will be around mid-April.

The bulk of our digital TV items will only be found there, with just a brief summary and link posted right here on the original Mighty Blog of Fun(tm)...


J. Moses(Tri-State Media Watch Editor) said...

I may do the same with TSMW...that's probably a wise idea from you guys...

Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n-dizzle said...

Too bad we're not getting WVPX-DT until June. The ION television network recently launched a HD feed on several other stations that already have digital channels on air. And since WVPX is an owned station, that should put us in the express lane to having another HDTV OTA service in the market9and on cable).

It's too bad, this channel will remain on my "ignore" list until June 12 when we get a HDTV or even SD digital version, as the PQ of this channel on TWC is horrendous. WVPX in HD could be a good channel, as ION broadcasts shows like Boston Legal and NCIS, which are HDTV. Plus they used to have ER and movies that could be HD. Plus they'll probably expand their library of shows over time.