Mary Robinson is all about real-world information on the switch to digital television signals. The success of the DTV switch will depend on regular folks understanding new technology and getting it running in their homes. Ms. Robinson is weighing in on those nitty-gritty details, sharing her enthusiasm for TV-signal technology with those who are less technically inclined. She’s developed an expertise through years of hands-on experimentation, pulling in signals from the rooftop of her Texas home. Now she’s a resource for consumers struggling with the digital switch. We discovered Mary right here on TVWeek.com, where she reliably dispensed information in the comments section of this story, First Digital TV Converter Box Wins Government Approval about the digital switch. Let’s keep the conversation rolling!



Digital Transition Answers

Next Round of Station Transitions Is a Week Away

March 24, 2009 3:48 PM

We are less than a week away from the next round of analog television stations going dark.

Starting March 30, those noncommercial/educational stations that certified they were having severe financial problems and needed to power down their analog transmitters will be allowed to do so by the FCC.

The majority of the distressed analog NC/E station transmitter shutdowns will happen March 30-31.

The next wave of stations ending analog will be April 16. These stations consist primarily of independent and network-affiliated commercial stations.This is the earliest date that a commercial station could choose to end analog if it did not do so on Feb. 17.

After April 16, a number of stations will sporadically turn off transmitters leading up to the extended end date for the transition to digital, which is June 12.

To view a PDF file of the 158 stations ending analog before June 12, click here. The stations are arranged by Designated Market Areas (DMAs).

At this time, there were 421 stations that ended analog on or before Feb. 17, 2009. Between March 30 and June 12, 158 more stations will go to digital-only broadcasting. And on June 12, the remaining 927 analog television stations will cease to broadcast analog.

It's been a long road, and as we merge onto the digital highway, full-power analog broadcasting will be fading into the rear-view mirror. Sit back, relax, put the cruise control on and enjoy the ride. It's finally getting close, and we're headed into the 21st century!

Most of us, anyway …

FCC Rule Allowing DTS Should Help Consumers

March 2, 2009 10:23 AM

I ran across something on the FCC Web site this weekend that knocked my socks off. The commission has adopted rules to allow what is known as a Distributed Transmission System, or DTS for short.

DTS allows a full-power, Class A or low-power digital television station to build and operate smaller transmitter sites, all on the same channel as the main transmitter, to help cover underserved communities due to terrain, tall building multi-path and reduced coverage area because of differences in the analog and digital signal coverage contours.

Full-power stations can use DTS as the main system for broadcasting their signals, or they can be used in addition to full-power transmitters and will be covered under one license.

Class A and low-power stations can use DTS the same way, but they would all be covered under different licenses.

It is much more spectrum-efficient than using translators, due to the fact that all transmitters would use the same channel. DTS uses new technology to keep the signals from interfering with each other.

According to the FCC rules, a Table of Distances (TOD) has been established to determine how far a station's signal could be expected to go if transmitted at the highest power authorized on a tower that was at the maximum height allowed above average terrain.

There are three zones for television stations in the U.S. Zone I consists of basically a lower quadrant of Wisconsin, the lower half of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, the lower half of New York, the lower halves of Vermont and New Hampshire and the coastal area of Maine down to the upper half of Virginia, West Virginia, then along the border of Kentucky, with Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois included in Zone I with everything in between.

Zone III includes the state of Florida; the coastal sections of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana; and the coastal sections of Texas down to the Mexican border, along with the lower section of Georgia.

Zone II is everybody else.

This comes into play with the TOD. For Zone I stations, the TOD has a maximum distance for channels 2-6 of 67 miles. For channels 7-13, the distance is predicted to be 63 miles. In Zones II and III, channels 2-6 can carry 80 miles and channels 7-13 can go 77 miles. UHF channels 14 -51 all carry 64 miles whether in Zone I, II or III. The reference point for each radius is determined to be the main transmitter site.

As an alternative to the TOD, a station can make a case to the FCC to use the "largest station" provision of the rules, which seeks to equalized the coverage areas of stations serving the same market, and to address disparities between VHF and UHF stations.

By adopting the rules, and authorizing stations to use a network of DTS transmitters in lieu of a single transmitter, the FCC hopes to increase spectrum efficiency and improve consumer service.

There are a number of benefits to the DTS service, including serving viewers who could not be reached by conventional means, including rural and remote areas, and filling in gaps in coverage areas caused by terrain. DTS will provide higher-level and more uniform signals throughout a DTV station's coverage area, especially in fringe areas. It will improve reception of pedestrian and mobile devices and should enhance indoor reception for suburban users.

Stations that have had trouble getting higher towers authorized due to FAA concerns or local zoning ordinances can build out to the maximum potential and co-locate on existing wireless towers.

Spectrum efficiency will be enhanced due to all DTS transmitters using the same channel as the main transmitter, as was mentioned above.

DTS can enhance the transition to digital by delivering more reliable signals to viewers and reducing the costs associated with building a large single-tower facility.

And finally, it came to light during the initial switch to all-digital broadcasting In Wilmington, N.C., that some viewers lost reception of WECT because they found themselves outside of the digital contour when WECT turned off its analog transmitter.

DTS involves some exciting technology, and addresses a lot of the problems that posters on this site have been complaining about.

If you are having trouble receiving a station that you were able to get on analog, I urge you to call, write, complain, cry and make the wheel squeak at the station you are not getting. Let them know you expect them to fulfill their obligation of getting you a signal you can receive.

Stations now have no excuse to not provide reasonable coverage to any community in their market area. This is going to be a good thing.

FCC Unveils DTV Switch Guidelines for Stations

February 23, 2009 1:16 PM

For those television stations that did not end analog broadcasting on Feb. 17, 2009, the FCC has set up the criteria under which stations may elect to continue their analog signals until the end of the extension period on June 12, 2009, or elect a date sooner than that if they desire.

On March 17, 2009 stations have to notify the FCC of their intentions of when they will cease analog broadcasts. This will be a binding notice, and cannot be changed once the election has been made by the station, unless there is a catastrophic transmitter or equipment failure or a natural disaster of some sort.

The earliest that a station may end analog broadcasts at this time is April 16. This is 30 days from the March 17 notification date, which would give the FCC 30 days notice, and allow the station to begin a 30 day campaign of announcements notifying the public of the intent to cease analog broadcasting which is required by the FCC before analog transmissions can end.

So it is status quo for the next few weeks as stations decide how to handle the final switch to digital only broadcasting.

Still Waiting to Flip the Switch

February 17, 2009 11:51 AM

Well, this is the day that was supposed to be. The day that analog broadcasting would have ended. The beginning of digital-only broadcasting could have been. Should have been? I am not going to make that judgment call.

As it turns out, there will be a minimum of 368 stations that will end analog broadcasts at midnight tonight. That leaves about 1,450 to switch later.

I am sure most of them would have preferred to just go ahead and make the switch today, but I do know of some where it made no difference to them whatsoever to delay the mandated switch.

I know that there are a lot of people who, for whatever reason, were not ready to take the plunge into the digital-only waters. Some of that can be blamed on the underfunding of the federal converter-box coupon program. That never should have happened.

It doesn't matter if you are a fan or a foe of the stimulus bill that will be signed tomorrow. One thing it will take care of is funding for the coupons.

All I ask of those who are not ready today for the switch is to get your coupons, research the available converter boxes and try the boxes out well ahead of the new deadline.

If you have antenna issues or some other problem, there should still be enough time to resolve the roadblocks to good reception.

Personally, for me, the delay is a mixed bag. I am more than ready for the maximization construction permits to move forward. I get OK reception here in my little neck of the woods, but it would be nice to have everyone at full power.

I live in Designated Market Area No. 141 out of the 210 DMAs in the nation, so it is a relatively small market. I get dependable signals from seven digital television stations, all of which are capable of broadcasting in HD.

I get two NBC network affiliates, two Fox affiliates, CBS, ABC, The CW and an independent station located between my area and the No. 176 DMA next door. MyNetworkTV comes from a low-power analog station. But there’s no digital PBS over-the-air.

In that regard, it doesn't hurt my feelings any that there will be a delay to the end of analog broadcasts. I will still be able to get a PBS station in analog for a while longer.

One other thing that I am grateful for is that our local Channel 6 will still be broadcasting in analog, which will allow me to continue to catch up on the overnight news by listening to Channel 6 on the FM radio in the car on my commute to work, as I have been doing for the last 17 years. I will miss it when I am no longer able to do that.

For some, there is good that will come from the delay. It certainly will harm others, notably television stations that have to provide two streams of programming for the next few months, at a substantial cost to them at a time when advertising revenues are down.

Nevertheless, we have to live with it, and it will be a while before we can see all of us on the other side of the future of television.

Changes to Expect, Delay or No Delay

January 30, 2009 7:33 AM

The mandated date for digital-only broadcasting is just a little over two weeks away, and it may or not be delayed from the current date of Feb. 17 to June 12. Regardless of whether or not the date is moved back, there may be some changes that are going to occur at one or more of your local stations.

The legislation filed to delay the transition date contains language that would allow television stations to go ahead and end analog broadcasting as they see fit. This would give stations that need to move from temporary digital channels the authority they need to start broadcasting on their final allotted digital channels.

I would not be surprised to learn that the majority of station owners and operators will decide to exercise this option. For several months now, stations' budgets have factored in an end to the analog broadcasts, and no money was allocated for continued utility costs associated with continuing to keep both digital and analog transmitters running. This may or may not affect your reception of one or more of your local stations.

If a station in your area is making the move from a temporary channel to their final DTV allotted channel, it will become necessary to program the new channel into your converter box, digital television or HDTV.

This can be accomplished in one of four ways.

First, a complete re-scan of channels can be performed. Beware, however, that this function erases ALL of the channels stored in the tuner's memory, and replaces them with the channels it picks up while doing the re-scan. If you receive stations from different directions, or you had a hard time locking in some channels, this could prove to be problematic.

The second way this can be done is to do what is called an "Easy Add" scan. Not all devices have this capability. Just go to the menu, and if this application can be accessed, it looks for new channels and adds them to the memory. Very simple and very easy, if your device facilitates this function.

Another way to achieve the reception of the new channel is go in and access the tuner manually. Most menus do not have an option for this task. My Zenith digital-to-analog converter box facilitates this function. There is usually a way to add the new channel and delete the former channel from the memory. The manual tuner feature is also a good way to aim your antenna.

The fourth way that I know to add a new channel is to go into the menu and manually add the new channel. I find this option quite cumbersome and frustrating. The only converter box that I have had experience with that had no other way than this to add new channels was the Magnavox from Wal-mart.

When trying to add a new channel, both by entering the virtual channel number or the true RF channel, the box would not recognize it and would fail to enter the channel in the memory. The Magnavox customer service number was totally useless. Good luck if you have one of these boxes.

So if you find that at some point in the near future you cannot receive a channel that was dependable before, then it may well be that the station has switched channels, and one of these tasks needs to be performed.

Here are a handful of stations that I know will "Flash Cut" (switch channels) on or near Feb. 17, 2009, despite a potential extension of the mandated transition date:

On Feb. 17
Shreveport, La. KSHV/KMSS
Alexandria, La./Natchez Ms. WNTZ
Lafayette, La. KADN

Soon after Feb. 17
Beaumont, Tx. KBMT (KBMT has asked for about 30 to 45 days to make the switch)

The DTV Transition Is Going Through Its Own Transition

January 27, 2009 4:14 PM

With 21 days to go until the transition period is over for the conversion to digital broadcasting, it seems the transition to digital will go through a transition period of its own.

It looks as if the mandated transition date will be pushed back to June 12. It is not official yet, but a compromise was reached between Democrats and Republicans that will allow a vote to pass the bill sometime this week.

Republicans have introduced legislation that will continue to fund the digital converter-box coupon program, which has run out of money. As of last Wednesday, there was a waiting list of 2.6 million requests for the coupons.

Another concern for Republicans was the added cost to television station owners if the transition date were to be moved back. PBS has estimated it will cost public broadcasting stations $22 million in added utility costs, continued rental on transmitters and delays of tower crews if the date is pushed back.

A compromise has emerged, however, to allow stations that want to switch to digital broadcasting and turn off their analog transmitters to do so. I would expect the majority of broadcasters will choose to do this sooner rather than later, but we will have to wait and see how this plays out.

It looks like instead of a hard date to make the switch, it will occur over the next few months. June 12 is on a Friday, and to me it makes way more sense to do it over a weekend than in the middle of the week like the Feb. 17 date was. I never did understand why in the world it would happen on a Tuesday night.

But I think the point is moot anyway. The compromise bill, if it is passed, will allow television stations to make the move at any time up until June 12.

Hawaii's Switch Goes Smoothly as Rest of Country Awaits Date

January 19, 2009 10:42 AM

Hawaii transitioned to digital-only broadcasting statewide at noon local time on Jan. 15. There are at least 30 more days to go for the rest of the country.

A delay of the mandated Feb. 17 transition for the rest of us was defeated by the Republicans in the Senate on Saturday, but the matter will be brought up by the Democrats again next week, it has been reported.

From all accounts that I have seen, the switch in Hawaii went smoothly. There are only an estimated 20,000 TV households in Hawaii that are not connected to cable or satellite, so the number of affected viewers was relatively small, no matter if they were ready or not. That can be contrasted with the city of Houston, Texas, where almost 1 million people will be affected by the transition.

There was only one PBS station in the state that was not ready for the transition at the time of the switch. They had not yet received the equipment necessary to get the digital signal to their viewing area. That glitch is expected to last for a couple of months or so.

I have heard that some viewers in Maine have already been told that after the switch, they will not be able to receive over-the-air television and will have to get cable or satellite to continue having television.

If a bill is successfully passed to postpone the transition for the rest of the country, the expected date for the switch would be June 12.

DTV: Out of Plane, No Parachute

January 8, 2009 5:17 PM

So, we are at just 40 days (and nights?) away from the transition to digital only broadcasting here in the United States, unless Barack Obama succeeds in delaying the DTV switch. All is not well in Camelot my friends.

The $40 coupon program has run out of money. Those who waited to order the coupons are now being put on a waiting list that is being funded by money returned to the program from coupons that were never redeemed. That funding has to trickle back into the system before more coupons can be sent to those on the waiting list.

The Obama presidential transition team is attempting to persuade Congress to delay the hard deadline for the end of analog broadcasting. High ranking Democrats are making the argument that the coupon program is in shambles, and that there are millions of households that simply are not ready, and cannot be ready in time for the Feb. 17 analog shutoff date.

High ranking Republicans argue that changes are needed in the accounting procedures for the coupon program to help stem the tide of applications that have flooded in requesting the coupons. They argue that changing the transition date at this time would create confusion with the public.

Nielsen reported in December that 6.8% of all U. S. households in were totally unready for the transition, and 10% were partially unready. They also stated that 11% of all Hispanic households were not ready for the transition, as well.

There is another plan to allow all television stations that are on the VHF low band (channels 2-6) to remain on the air with their analog signals, if they desire. The intent is to have them continuing to broadcast for emergency communications if necessary.

President George Bush signed a bill on December 23 known as the SAFER act that allows one television station in each market to remain on the air with an analog signal for up to 30 days after the Feb. 17 transition deadline. It is affectionately called the DTV "nightlight" bill. As was mentioned above, some want all stations on analog channels 2-6 to have the option to stay on the air. So far only 136 television markets out of 210 have a station that could remain on the air without causing undue interference with other stations.

The Consumers Electronics Association (CEA) is OK with the transition date. They did a survey with retailers and noted that converter boxes are in stock, and ready for purchase. But the converter box is only half the battle, as many of you well know who frequent this forum. On the other side is the antenna situation and I might add that it may be the "bigger" half.

The Consumers Union is urging a delay in the timing of the Feb. 17 deadline. Citing the current state of the economy and the under funding of the converter box coupon program as the primary reasons. Noting that this a federally mandated transition, they claim that millions of Americans will have to dig into their own pockets to navigate the transition at a time when many are suffering the effects of the down economy.

I made a statement in one of the posts here on the blog the other day that I felt like we had jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, and the transition date (read as “ground”) was rapidly approaching. I need to revise that statement a bit.

I feel like we were pushed out of that aircraft. Now I am confident that my parachute will open, and that I will be OK. I have a great outdoor antenna, and can get all of our local HD and SD digital stations, and one that is over 60 miles from me. But I worry about that steady stream of others who had to bail out behind me. I am not so sure that all will make it to the "ground" and survive.

I figure we will just have see how this all plays out, and once again, stay tuned...

Your Christmas Present: Help With Your Digital Set-Up

December 8, 2008 9:12 AM

The season of gift-giving is coming, and no doubt many of you will be receiving equipment for the reception of digital broadcast signals in the form of converter boxes, digital recorders, standard-definition televisions with digital tuners or, for the lucky ones, HDTVs.

Many of you will hook them up to antennas you already possess, or those "digital antennas" that are sitting on the shelves of the big-box stores. After dinner on Christmas you'll fire them up and get a whole plethora of channels that you didn't even know were out there. Others will do a digital channel scan and get one or two digital channels where you normally get six or seven analog channels. Others will do a scan and get the dreaded "no digital channels found." What to do now?

You get on the computer and call on your friendly Mary ... the Cat Lady. That is what you do. And rest assured, I will help you determine what it will take to get all the channels you can get. Or possibly determine that it is a lost cause. Either way, we will try to work it out together.

But it will take some help from you. In the past, I have had posters write in and state that they can't get channel 9 or maybe channel 17, and they want to know what the problem is. That won't help me help you very much. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of stations on channel 9 or 17 across the country.

I will help if I can, but I need a bit more information from you.

I need the answers to the following questions:

1. What are the call signs of the stations you get on analog that you want to get on digital? You know, those four-letter (for full-power stations) IDs that you hear all the time, like KXXX or WXXX (a few are three letters, such as WGN). Low-power stations sometimes use a combination of five letters and numbers, like K62XX or W02AA.

2. What kind of reception did you get on analog? Use a scale of 1 to 10, with a 1 being barely watchable to a 10 being the best: a clear and crisp picture with no imperfection whatsoever.

3. What kind of antenna are you using? Table top? Is it an outdoor antenna? In the attic? Amplified or not? If you do not know, just give me a description of it as best you can.

4. In what city are the stations located?

5. How far are you from that city?

6. In what direction are you from that city? Or, are you in the city or a suburb of it?

7. What is the terrain like in your area? Is it flat? Hilly? Mountainous? Are you up high or down in a valley?

8. Are there a lot of trees where you are?

9. About how long is the coaxial cable run from the antenna to the television?

10. Are you using a splitter to get the antenna signal to more than one receiver, such as a second TV or a VCR?

The more information you can give me, the clearer the picture will be for me try to figure out how best to proceed with trying to get the digital channels.

Those of you in apartment complexes or condos with management associations are at a particular disadvantage. You have the legal right to erect outdoor antennas, although with some restrictions, but a lot of the time you have to jump through hoops to get an OK to do so.

I wish everyone all the luck in getting the stations you desire, but if you have a problem, just post and I will work with you to see if we can resolve the reception problems.

Digital Switchover Will Be Here Before We Know It

November 24, 2008 11:54 AM

Well, we have less than 3 months left before the end of full power analog television transmission. The switch to digital is approaching rapidly. Where do you stand? Are you prepared? I hope so, because it will be here before we know it.

I am going to touch on some odds and ends this morning. More or less an update as to what has been happening around here as far as the transition to digital is concerned.

I finally got around to cutting the antenna that was felled by Hurricane Ike off of my roof last weekend. I was able to salvage most of the telescoping antenna mast, mainly because I did not have it extended all the way up. I was able to piece enough together to allow me to erect another antenna to within about 3 feet as high as my old one. That is OK for now—it will save me the cost of buying another mast or imposing on my friend for some pipe. It will be adequate for the time being.

I am going to replace my Radio Shack VU-190 XL antenna with a Channel Master 3671 deepest fringe antenna. I already have purchased a CM 7777 signal booster. I just need to find the time to get it all put up. I will be out of town most of the Thanksgiving weekend, but I will find the time soon, I am sure.

There are a couple of things happening here on the home front concerning the transition to digital. I am going to give a run down of where we stand here in the Beaumont/Port Arthur, Texas market.

The biggest story to hit the news here in the last couple of weeks was surely a surprise. Our local full power NBC station, KBTV channel 4 (digital channel 40) unexpectedly announced at the end of October that they were ending their 51 year relationship with NBC and were to become a FOX network affiliate on Jan. 1, 2009. This leaves us for the time being without an NBC station.

At this time, KBTV transmits a micro power signal of 1.28 KW (1,280 watts) from their 1,227 feet above ground (AG) analog transmitting tower in Vidor, Texas. This tower has been deemed "structurally unsound" to support the weight of the full power digital antenna. This tower already supports the KBTV analog antenna, temporary digital antenna, and the antenna for the 100,000 watt FM radio station KIOC. KBTV claims that they are going to increase their low power digital signal enough to cover 85% of the KBTV analog viewing area.

KBTV attempted to negotiate a contract with KVHP channel 29 (digital channel 30), the FOX station out of Lake Charles, Louisiana, but was unable to come to terms on an agreement. KBTV has opted to begin construction of a new tower immediately adjacent to the existing tower, and claim that the tower will be finished by Feb. 1, 2009. KBTV has been granted a construction permit extension until Feb. 17. 2009. KBTV states that the transmitter and antenna have been ordered, and that it fully expects to be up and operational at the end of the transition period. KBTV is transmitting a 480 standard definition signal at this time. There has been no word as to what future HD standard they will adopt.

I am not surprised that a contract could not be negotiated with KVHP. That would have put two full power FOX television stations on the same tower, Duh.

KFDM channel 6 (digital channel 21), a CBS affiliate, has constructed their final DTV facilities, but they are awaiting action from the FCC on a maximization application to increase the effective radiated power (ERP) from 50KW (50,000 watts) to 280 KW (280,000 watts). KFDM transmits from a tower that is almost 886 feet high above ground (AG). and they transmit a 1080 HD signal on the main channel and a 480 SD signal on the sub-channel 6.2 that carries the CW network.

KPLC channel 7, an NBC station, which is available to some of the viewers in our area, is broadcasting a digital signal on channel 8 at this time, but will revert to channel 7 after the transition. KPLC has constructed the full power final DTV facility and will commence digital broadcasting on channel 7 on Feb. 18, 2009 at an ERP of 31 KW from an antenna that sits on a tower that is 1,480 feet AG. KPLC carries a 720 HD signal on the main channel, and 24/7 news and weather in SD on the 7.2 sub-channel. They also carry a notice that The Tube, a music video network is no longer available due to circumstances beyond their control on sub-channel 7.3.

KBMT channel 12, an ABC station, is broadcasting a digital signal on channel 50 at this time and had been granted a Special Temporary Authority to continue to broadcast on channel 50 until Aug. 8, 2009. The new digital transmitter is expected to be delivered in late January or early February. At the end of analog broadcasting, the analog channel 12 antenna will be removed, and the new digital channel 12 antenna will be mounted on the 980 feet AG tower. The analog channel 12 transmitter will be removed from the cabinet, and the new channel 12 digital transmitter will be installed. The conversion to digital channel 12 is expected to take about 30 to 45 days from the end of analog broadcasts, and KBMT should be transmitting the authorized full power maximization power of 160 KW well before the Aug. 18 deadline. At the time that the channel 12 digital transmitter is operational, the channel 50 transmitter will be shut down and the digital channel 50 antenna removed from the tower. KBMT is transmitting a 720 HD signal on one main channel. There has been no word as to what programming, if any, KBMT will employ on any future sub-channels.

KLTL channel 18 (digital channel 20), a Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB and PBS) affiliate is available to the eastern 1/3 of our viewing area, and is broadcasting a digital signal from a tower that has an ERP of 55 KW from a tower that is 977 feet AG. KLTL is awaiting action from the FCC on an application to move to the KPLC tower and transmit 75.6 KW from a height of 1,400 feet. KLTL transmits the LPB and PBS on the 18.5 sub-channel and LPB and PBS in SD on the main channel of 18.1. Alternate programming is carried in SD on the 18.3 sub-channel.

KVHP channel 29 (digital channel 30), a FOX affiliate, is broadcasting a mini-micro signal of .2 KW (200 watts) from the studio to transmitter link (STL) tower at the studios on I-210 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. KVHP states in filings with the FCC that there is no room in the transmitter building to house both the analog transmitter and the digital transmitter. The new digital transmitter has been ordered, and was scheduled to be received back on Oct. 31. The antenna is scheduled to arrive in early December. KVHP states that at that time, installation of the transmitter and antenna will commence, which may cause an early termination of analog broadcasting, although, in the DTV update filed with the FCC, they claim that analog broadcasts will continue through Feb. 17, 2009. So we will have to wait and see how this all plays out. KVHP has a granted construction permit to transmit a 1,000 KW ERP signal from the tower east-northeast of Lake Charles, and west-northwest of the Beaumont/Port Arthur area. The antenna will be mounted 1,038 feet high on a tower that is 1,289 feet AG. KVHP transmits FOX in 720 HD on the main channel and FOX in SD on the 29.2 sub-channel.

KITU channel 34 (digital channel 33), Trinity network affiliate (TBN), has constructed the final DTV facility broadcasting 500 KW from a tower 1,026 feet AG. KITU does hold a granted construction permit that will not expire until Aug. 7, 2011 to maximize the ERP to 1,000 KW. KITU transmits 5 SD channels of programming.

KUIL channel 64, a low-power station which uses a digital transmitter (K36ID) on a tower 20.53 miles away from the analog transmitter, has been carrying the FOX network, but will lose that affiliation after FOX moves to KBTV on Jan. 1, 2009. There have been reports that KUIL is actively pursuing an affiliation with the NBC network, but there has also been speculation that NBC will end up on a KBMT sub-channel. Official word from KUIL has been silent for a couple of weeks now, so there is a lot of uncertainty in the area. The owners of KUIL were the successful bidders in an auction conducted by the FCC which started on Nov. 5, 2009. They won the right to apply for a construction permit to build a digital transmitter on channel 43 at the same site as the analog transmitter for channel 64. This should help their case for getting a NBC contract. This will give them two low power digital transmitters 20 or so miles apart. This will greatly improve their coverage of our area.

The channel 36 digital transmitter has an ERP of 15 KW broadcasting from an antenna that is 525 feet AG. And the new application on digital channel 43 calls for a and ERP of 15 KW from an antenna 361 feet AG. At this time, K36ID transmits FOX in 720 HD on the main channel and FOX in SD on the sub-channel 64.1.

I have talked to the owner of low power KUMY channel 22, a My Network TV affiliate who holds a granted construction permit to move to a different tower nearer the center of our viewing area. He has stated to me that at that time, he will convert the station over to digital, although there is no application showing on the FCC Web site to have been submitted to do that at this time. The minor change to an existing station, which authorizes the station to move to the more centrally located tower, construction permit expires on May 3, 2009.

So, there you have it. That is what is happening here on the home front down here in my neck of the woods So keep your antennas reaching for the sky and as they say, stay tuned.

The Wonders of a Battery-Powered Converter Box

October 20, 2008 4:21 PM

I finally got around to checking out the Winegard digital to analog converter box that I ordered a couple of weeks ago that can be operated by the external 9 volt "D" cell battery pack. The converter box also includes an adaptor to power the box on household current for times when the battery pack is not needed. I found the converter box is very user friendly. The operation manual is clear and concise, and the menu in the onscreen display is almost self-explanatory—very simple to use and operate. After doing an initial channel search, more channels can be easily added with the channel add-on feature.

I set up the box first with a pair of un-amplified rabbit ears with fixed position telescoping VHF elements in a "V" configuration and a simple loop UHF antenna. This is the simplest antenna that I own. I was able to get two digital stations that way. One was our local CBS affiliate, KFDM, broadcasting on UHF channel 21 (virtual channel 6.1). The other was the TBN station, KITU, on channel 33 (virtual channel 34.1). So there was only one channel, KFDM, that would have news, weather and radar in case of a tropical storm or hurricane. But one is better than none.

I conducted a channel search at tvfool.com and used an antenna height of 8 feet as the standard for the indoor antenna. I found that KFDM had a signal strength of -47.6 dBs and KITU had a signal strength of -30.3 dBs. KBMT, broadcasting on channel 50 (virtual channel 12.1) had a signal strength somewhere in between, but I could not lock it in. I live in an older house that has asbestos siding and shiplap walls inside and out, with a shiplap ceiling, so there is considerable signal loss inside the house.

I then tried an indoor amplified antenna and was able to get our local ABC station, KBMT, broadcasting on channel 50 (virtual channel 12.1). But an amplified antenna is of no use when the electricity is out. Or is it? The amplified indoor antenna uses an AC adaptor to power the antenna at 12 volts DC. So my question was what if I could power the indoor antenna from a battery pack?

I found, online, an 8 cell "D" battery pack that stacks the voltage up to 12 volts. My next project is to attach the correct barrel plug to the 12-volt battery pack to see whether it will power the amplified antenna. My goal is to have a self-contained setup with battery-powered amplified antenna, battery-powered Winegard converter box and battery-powered television. The AC adaptor for the converter box is rated at 9 volts DC and 1 amp of current. The adaptor for the indoor antenna is rated at 12 volts DC at 200 milliamps, so I believe that the 12-volt battery pack for the antenna will run it longer that the 18 hours claimed for the battery pack on the Winegard converter box. That will be a blog for another day. As they say, please stay tuned ...

As of right now, we have no digital channels locally that are broadcasting on VHF, but KBMT is slated to revert to the analog channel 12, 30 to 45 days after the transition and has a maximization application pending to go to 160, 000 watts effective radiated power (ERP). KFDM at this time is broadcasting 50,000 watts ERP but has a maximization application pending to go to 280,000 watts ERP. KBTV broadcasting on channel 40 (virtual channel 4.1) is transmitting a micro signal of 1,280 watts ERP and has a maximization application pending to go to 1,000,000 watts ERP, so I am hoping that these increases in power will eliminate the need for the battery-powered indoor antenna. But I still want to know if it will work if I need it.

I have also become aware of another Web site that is a good source of information with reviews of converter boxes. I am including a link to this site for your convenience.

A Balky Converter Box

October 14, 2008 10:10 AM

I got a chance to set up and use a Magnavox TB110MW9 digital-to-analog converter box over the weekend.

A guy that I work with was having trouble setting it up for his father, so on Friday I followed him over to his dad's house to see what I could do for them. His dad had used both of his government coupons to purchase two of the converters from Wal-Mart.

It turned out that one of the converters would not work right out of the box. I was able to set the output channel on the box, but when I tried to get back to the menu, the box would not respond at all.

His dad has a Radio Shack VU-190 antenna combined with a Channel Master 9521A remote-controlled antenna rotor mounted on a mast about 25 feet high.

Rotating the antenna toward the west, I was able to lock in 2 of the stations in the Beaumont, Texas, area. Turning the antenna back around toward their local stations in Lake Charles, La., I attempted to add them to the channel lineup in the converter-box memory, but the box would not recognize them.

I then restarted the initial set-up procedure for the converter box, and was able to get the local channels locked in. However, in doing so, the Beaumont stations were erased. Rotating the antenna back around to the west, I tried to add the Texas stations and was unable to do so. I tried entering the actual broadcast channel as well as the virtual channel (the channel number that appears on the TV screen) and still was unsuccessful.

This is not a user-friendly converter by any means, and I would not recommend it for anyone. It has no easy add feature for additional channels and the instructions were woefully inadequate. I suggested that he return the boxes and get his money back and go somewhere else to get a different brand, or get a different box at Wal-Mart if he could.

My co-worker told me this morning that his dad tried to return the boxes to the Wal-Mart in Sulphur, La. The store had no converter boxes in stock, and offered only to refund the difference that he paid between the value of the coupon and price of the box. Wal-Mart was going to reap the benefit of the $40 and keep it for themselves. I wonder how many times this has happened?

He now has to wait until the converter boxes are re-stocked before he can exchange them. Hopefully it will be for one from a different manufacturer.

Preparing for D Day

October 2, 2008 5:20 PM

It is only 138 days until D Day (Digital Day). I did not think that up, but I wish I had. I read it somewhere while I was up in Tyler hiding from Hurricane Ike.

Do you know where your digital signals are? Have you gotten a digital-to-analog converter box yet? Do you know what stations you will be able to receive after the transition?

If not, now is the time to get ready.

I have been on a soapbox these last few months about the loss of the use of battery-powered emergency televisions. If you have followed the blog, you know this has been one of my pet peeves. I did an article on the Winegard RC-DT09A converter box, which has an accompanying battery pack to power it during electrical outages, so there is hope after all.

I ordered mine last week and just got it off the porch this afternoon when I got home from work. I have not had a chance to play with it yet, but I will do so soon, and I will report on the quality of the box, its features and reception in the comments section after I have had a chance to give it a test run.

One thing we have not talked much about here in the Digital Transitions Answers blog is one of the most important aspects of erecting an antenna, but it’s equally important to the antenna itself or the amps. That is the antenna mast.

The mast is important for any antenna that is going to be mounted outside. For our purposes here, I will stick to a single-level, one-floor house. Two-story and higher structures need special consideration, but some of what I will discuss here can be adapted to taller buildings. Just be careful, take your time and plan your job.

First, pick a site that is away from the power drop to your house. If your electrical service comes in from underground, you are one step ahead of the rest of us. Just make sure it is OK to dig a hole where you want to mount the antenna.

Telescoping masts are probably the easiest type of installation to make. Once the rotor, if you are using one, and the antenna are mounted, it can be raised to whatever height you desire up to the maximum extension. A word of caution, however: Most retail telescoping masts are relatively thin-walled pipe that will not withstand higher wind gusts unless guy wires are used. That is what happened to mine during Hurricane Ike, and I did not even have it extended up all the way. Full extension was 36 feet, and I only had it up about 23 feet. I had the middle section down well into the bottom section, and the top section well down into the middle section to give it more stability, but alas, it was not stable enough. But then again, we are talking hurricane-force winds for several hours, or maybe even a small tornado. It had survived Hurricane Humberto and Tropical Storm Edouard, so I thought it was OK. Not.

Eave brackets can be found almost anywhere that outside antennas are sold. They are sold online, at Radio Shack and at hardware stores. Just make sure you get one that will get you out past the edge of the roof.

One of the tricks that I have learned is, if you are handy at making things, to make a squared-off U-shaped bracket to place in the ground. I have used 2-inch-wide flat-bar that was 1/4” thick and a height of about 16 inches when the bottom of the U is on a flat surface to make the bracket. Stainless steel would be a prime material for this, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, to keep it from rusting away on you. My bracket ended up being a little wider than was necessary to accommodate the diameter of the mast. I drilled a 9/16” hole through both sides of the bracket and through the mast itself, so that when the bracket is installed in the ground, the mast will be raised a couple of inches off the ground. This will allow a pivot to swing the mast from horizontal to vertical and also allow rainwater to drain out of the mast to keep it from rusting from the inside. This also will facilitate lowering the mast if needed for servicing or a hurricane, which, as you all know by now, I did not do. My best friend did lower her antenna, promptly raised it back up after the storm and used it to watch TV for almost two weeks before her cable was restored.

To mount the ground bracket, it is desirable to have a plumb bob of some sort. After finding where you want the antenna, mount the eave bracket on the fascia board using lag bolts (it is a good idea to place at least one lag bolt in the end of a rafter or ceiling joist) lower the plumb bob by the string from the edge of the roof and over the middle of the eave bracket. Let it settle near the ground and mark that spot as where you want the middle of the ground bracket. Dig a hole at least 18 inches deep and about 18 inches wide. Mix some concrete and pour some in the hole. Place the ground bracket in the hole to a depth of about 12 inches, leaving 4 inches above ground level. Pour the rest of the concrete over the bottom of the bracket and around the sides, leaving two 4-inch tabs with the 9/16” holes sticking up out of the concrete. Let the concrete set overnight or until dry.

Place the bottom of the mast between the tabs and install a 1/2” bolt (stainless steel would again be a good choice) long enough to go through both of the tabs with the antenna in between and a flat washer on the outside of both tabs.. Place the nut and tighten. Make sure not to tighten the nut so much that it binds the antenna. You want the nut tight enough so that it does not come off, but you want the antenna mast to be loose enough between the tabs to be able to rotate freely.

Swing the mast to a vertical position and attach to the eave bracket. You are now ready to mount the rotor and antenna to the mast.

When running the coaxial cable into the house, be sure to ground the lead-in and the mast. A grounding block can be found at Radio Shack or at electrical suppliers. Be sure to leave a “drip loop” before the coax goes into the house. A drip loop is some extra coax that allows any rain that runs down the cable to fall off at a lower point than where the coax goes in under the eave or through the wall.

Picking Up the Pieces After Ike

September 23, 2008 2:59 PM

I have been in Tyler, Texas, for 10 days now seeking refuge from Hurricane Ike. After eight days without power back home, where it got hammered by Ike, I called my house and got the answering machine, so I know that I have gotten power back to my home. For that, I am grateful.

My sister and brother-in-law just called and said they were at my house, and other than a lot of tree limbs down, there was not much damage to my house. For that, I am eternally grateful.

That was not the case after Hurricane Rita in 2005. I had a large oak tree on my house and the electrical meter and breaker box was lying in the driveway. It took three months to get the electricity hooked back up, and six months to move back in.

I did, however, lose my antenna this time. The mast is bent over, and the antenna is resting against the roof. Oh well, that is easily replaced compared with those who lost their homes and everything else they own.

I wanted to move it anyway. I want to go from the ground and attach it in two places near the peak of the gable. That will make it a bit sturdier to handle the brunt of forceful winds of future tropical cyclones—I hope, anyway. It did survive Hurricane Humberto, and tropical storm Edouard. It was just no match for Ike.

For my neighbors who were not protected by the sea-wall levy system, it has been a nightmare. Of the 3,500 homes in the Bridge City, Texas, area, only six did not have wind or water damage, or both.

I even heard that the people who evacuated from Orange, Texas, by bus, and left their cars in the parking lot of Lamar State College-Orange had water up to the rooftops of their vehicles.

The hurricane knocked all three of our full-power major network television stations off the air for a time. KFDM and KBMT were back on after a few days, and KBTV came back on Friday. I don't have any information about either of the low-power analog or digital Fox affiliate channels or the full-power TBN affiliate station. I will try to get that information when I get home.

Once again, I would like to thank the people of Tyler for being so helpful and gracious to the thousands of us who found ourselves seeking shelter from the storm. Your compassion for those of us leaving our homes and belongings does not go unnoticed. We thank you, and although we wish there was some way to repay you for your generosity, we do hope you never have such a tragedy to which we would have to repay that debt of gratitude.

Mapping Out Transition in East Texas

September 17, 2008 2:49 PM

Since I am still here in Tyler, Texas, awaiting word on when we can return home, I got curious about the full-power television stations here in deep East Texas. From what I could find out, there are four full-power stations that serve the cities of Tyler, Jacksonville, Nacogdoches and Longview.

All have built out their final DTV facilities except KLTV, channel 7, the CBS affiliate licensed to Tyler. KLTV is broadcasting on temporary channel 10 at this time, but plans to revert to channel 7 after the transition.

The construction of a new digital transmitter cabinet is set to begin Oct. 7, with installation in the transmitter building occurring during the week of Oct. 14 and testing to begin Oct. 22. KLTV will continue broadcasting the analog signal until the end of the transition period on Feb. 17.

KLTV has been granted a construction permit for an effective radiated power (ERP) of 10,200 watts (10.2KW), but has a maximization application pending before the FCC to go to an ERP of 66KW at a height of 313 meters above ground (MAG).

KYTX, the CBS affiliate on analog channel 19, is broadcasting the digital signal on channel 18 and will stay on channel 18 after the transition. It is broadcasting an ERP of 640KW from a height of 471 MAG.

KETK, the NBC affiliate on analog channel 56, is broadcasting the digital signal on channel 22 with an ERP of 1,000 KW from a height of 416.7 MAG.

And KFXK, the Fox affiliate on analog channel 51, is broadcasting on channel 31 and will remain there after the transition. KFXK is transmitting an ERP of 1,000 KW from a height of 338 MAG.

So, with the exception of KLTV, what you are getting now is what you will have to work with here in East Texas. I wish you good luck in setting up your systems to receive these stations.

DTV Transition Needs Disaster Relief

September 15, 2008 1:36 PM

I am writing this column in Tyler, Texas, as I have once again had to run from an approaching hurricane. My mom and dad, daughter, granddaughter and I (four generations of us) are here and waiting to see what kind of condition our area is in after being slammed by Hurricane Ike.

We also are wondering how long it will be before we can go home. It may be a week from now or a month—we just don't know.

The good news for us is that the hurricane levies held up against a nearly 13-foot tidal surge. The bad news is that others were not so lucky, and all four of the oil refineries in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area are shut down until the damage can be addressed and they are able to start up again. That affects us all.

Fortunately I didn't need my battery-powered TV this time, because in my haste to get packed, get the cats in carriers and load the car, I forgot to bring it. Can you believe that? But it was close. Tyler was just far enough. Just south of us in Lufkin, many are still without power tonight, so I wonder how many of them are depending on their battery-powered televisions this evening.

As I stated in one of my earlier columns, I think I have found a viable solution to that dilemma for after the transition to digital: a converter box that can be run on a battery pack that is manufactured by Winegard.

But the transition to digital needs to be monitored by those with the power to either educate the public on reception solutions for different causes of interference, as poster EmmGee-Ohio has suggested in some of the posts, or have the ability to mandate the use of new technology to address the reception problems of rural, long-distance viewers or those in urban areas that are the victims of landlords or home owner associations that put obstacles in the way of those that have the right to erect antennas to overcome multi-path or blocked signals.

Two and a half million residents of the state of Texas tonight have no power tonight, and I would bet thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, are getting information from battery- or crank-powered televisions they had in their emergency kits. That will not be an option come next hurricane season, so I hope we get it right. Remember, it could be you dealing with a disaster next time.

Learning the Lessons of Wilmington

September 9, 2008 5:45 PM

Well, they did it yesterday. They threw the big switch (which was really connected to nothing) and unplugged analog broadcasting in Wilmington, N.C., five months before the rest of the country. Another baby step in that trek toward all-digital broadcasting.

Well, not exactly. Viewers of analog signals still willl get a notice displayed across the analog screen that says, "At 12 p.m. on September 8, 2008, all commercial television stations in Wilmington, North Carolina, began to broadcast programming exclusively in a digital format," which included a 800 number that viewers could call for information. Also, the local PBS station will continue to broadcast the analog signal until the transition date.

And if Tropical Storm Hanna had impacted the area on Monday, instead of over the weekend, the plug would have been kept in place. This is an option that the rest of us will not have when it comes time for us to take the plunge. That will take place 161 days from now on Feb. 17. Come snowstorm or blizzard, the analog transmitters will be turned off. Get ready and cross your fingers now.

Wilmington, the 135th largest market in the country, had been inundated with ads announcing the early date of the switchover. They probably saw far more of them than the rest of the country can expect as our date nears, although it does seem that every 10 minutes another digital transition public service announcement is airing. But then again, I have cable, and most of the ads that I see make it a point to state that those televisions connected to cable will continue to work just fine. Hint, hint. Wink, wink.

According to John Dunbar of the Associated Press, as reported in the Houston Chronicle, FCC spokeswoman Edie Herman stated that as of about 6 p.m. Monday, several hundred calls had been taken at the 800 number. She said that as of Tuesday, they would have a better take on the nature of the calls, but student researchers from Elon University showed that in the first five hours after the flip of the switch, most calls were about problems with the digital conversion devices rather than a lack of awareness of the transition in general. At a local station, of the 81 calls logged as of 4:50 p.m., only one was due to a lack of knowledge about the transition.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, whose idea it was to come up with a test run prior to the mandated transition date, praised the Wilmington area for volunteering to be the first market in the country to go mostly digital. However, he said he wished other markets with other kinds of terrain and population patterns had stepped up to the plate as well.

Early this year, Nielsen Media Research estimated there were more than 13 million TV households that can receive only analog, over-the-air signals, and it is probably going to be Congress that is the recipient of the wrath of the American public if things don't go smoothly during the transition. (It's no wonder they chose February as the transition date. The elections will be over.)

All in all, it was a historic day. The biggest change in television since color was added, they say. But I think considering the limited market size and the flat terrain surrounding Wilmington, it should be considered more of an exercise than a test to see how the mass transition will play out.

Future Transition Brings Back Memories

September 8, 2008 8:57 AM

Just for fun, let's step back in time this morning to an era long ago and for many of us far, far away. To another time and place. To another life.

As we travel back to the early 1950s, we may find that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The VHF band was getting crowded at the dawn of the golden age of television, and more channels were needed to satisfy the thirst for television in areas of the country that were not near the major metropolitan cities.

To address this problem, in 1952, the Federal Communications Commission created the UHF band with channels 14 through 83. Immediately applications were filed and stations began to slowly come on the air. KPTV in Portland, Ore., became the first commercial UHF station on the air on Sept. 18, 1952.

The problem at the time was that there were no televisions on the market with UHF tuners in them. So what to do? They manufactured set-top UHF-to-VHF converter boxes! As Yogi Berrea supposedly once said, "It's deja vu all over again."

According to AntiqueRadio.org, the UHF converter worked this way: You hooked up separate VHF and UHF antennas to the back of the converter box and a common antenna lead-in to the back of the VHF television. There were two knobs on the box, so when you wanted to watch UHF, you set the knob on the left to UHF and turned your channel selector on the TV to either channel 5 or 6 (whichever was not used in your area) and then tuned in the UHF channel you wanted with the knob on the right. When choosing VHF with the knob on the left, the signal was "passed through" to the TV and you chose what channel to watch with the channel selector on the TV. Sound familiar? Instead of analog pass-through, we had VHF pass-through.

I personally do not remember seeing one of these devices. We got our first television in 1955 with the extra tax deduction that my parents received from me being born the year before, and if my memory serves me (and it may not), it did in fact have a UHF tuner, although they were not mandated on all televisions until 1964. Our first TV was an Admiral, blond-wood console television set with a 21" screen.

I have no recollection of life without television, although my sister does. But I do have a memory of the audio going out on the TV one time, and until the repairman could get out to our house (yes, the TV doctors made house calls), we had a tall stand-up Hi-Fi radio and turntable unit that had a FM radio in it that we used to hear the audio from channel 6 at the bottom of the FM dial. "Gunsmoke" was not to be missed for any reason.

The first television stations in our area were UHF stations on channel 31 in Beaumont, Texas, pre-dated by a channel 25 in Lake Charles, La., but I have found no other reference to these other than an ad, in the archives of the local newspapers, for an antenna guaranteed to receive the stations.

We got our first VHF station, KFDM channel 6, in 1955, pre-dated by KPLC channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1954. I don't think channel 25 or channel 31 lasted much longer after that,

In fact, when KFDM signed on in 1955, the paper carried a headline that stated, "Big Time Television Comes to Area." That gives reference to the second-class status of UHF television at the time. The first UHF station I remember seeing listed in the TV Guide was a channel 16 in Galveston, Texas, although I never watched it, and it disappeared from the listings just a few years later. The next UHF station I remember is channel 39 in Houston, which is still on the air and is, at this time, a CW network affiliate.

If you are interested in seeing more of the UHF-to-VHF converter boxes or the accompanying signal boosters that were needed to receive the early stations, you can go to Mark Nelson's Web site the First Set-Top Boxes to view his collection.

How to Cope Without Battery-Powered Emergency TVs

September 5, 2008 12:39 PM

One of the things that has bothered me about the conversion to digital broadcasting is the elimination of the battery-powered emergency televisions that are used by thousands of people during severe weather, tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes and other calamities as a useful information medium.

The hand-cranked and battery-powered televisions that were a staple of every emergency kit are becoming obsolete. If you have followed my thoughts on this subject, you know this has been one of my greatest concerns.

Living on the hurricane-prone upper Gulf Coast, I have many times relied on my battery-powered TV to get pertinent information and to be able to see, even if in black-and-white, the radar images of numerous tropical storms and hurricanes.

I found a functional solution to that dilemma this evening on the Solid Signal Web site.

Winegard has a digital-to-analog converter box that has analog pass-through powered by an AC adapter that powers the converter box with 9 volts DC. Winegard also has a battery pack adapter available for use with the converter box in which you can install six D batteries to power the converter box for up to 18 hours.

This, to me, is a viable option for those of us who are close enough to the digital television transmitters to receive the signals.

The pre-amp I have installed on the high-gain antenna that I use for distant stations will not allow signals to pass through when the electricity is off. However, I am close enough to the transmitters that if I were to install a smaller, fixed antenna aimed at the local stations, with a straight coax drop-down to the back room in the house, I would be able to receive the digital transmissions. I have stated before that this was something I had on my long list of things to do, but still, I was perplexed as to how I would power the converter box until I could get my generator going. Now I have a way to do that.

The battery pack is only compatible with the Winegard converter box, but this may be the answer for me. The converter box sells for $61.99 plus $9.95 for shipping, but is eligible for the $40 government coupon if you have one. The battery pack that plugs into the 9-volt jack on the back of the converter box sells for $14.99 plus $4.95 for shipping.

The converter box can be viewed here.

And the battery pack can be viewed here.

I am glad to find these products because this is something I have been pleading for.

WHO Has Viewers’ Backs in Digital Transition

August 28, 2008 3:39 PM

On Monday, WHO-TV conducted a test to help its viewers determine if they’re ready for the transition to digital television. About 18% of the Des Moines, Iowa, market gets its television signals over-the-air.

WHO ran a banner with a text crawl about a third of the way up the screen, asking viewers to tune in to the digital channel to see the program without the banner; if they could not, they were not ready for the conversion to digital broadcasting. I felt this was such an innovative way to inform the public.

I spoke by phone this morning with Dale Woods, the VP and general manager of WHO-TV. I wanted to know how Monday’s digital transition test went.

“Fantastic” was his one-word response to that question. He said the test created a lot of interest among the analog viewers of the station, and that it really drove home the idea that the transition is coming and people need to get ready for it.

Mr. Woods said the station staff had looked for a way to allow viewers to check all the televisions in the house without it being too much of an inconvenience to anyone. “Other stations that have done tests have just turned off the transmitter for a minute or two. That did not give people enough time to check out all of their TVs, and they had to be watching at the time of the test,” Mr. Woods said. “With our test running all day, it didn’t matter if they tuned in the morning shows, or afternoon soaps, or the late shows. Whenever someone turned us on, they were able to determine if they were ready or not, and if not, where to go to get help with the transition,” he added.

He said there were two types of callers to the station. One group just wanted to know more about the transition and how to get the coupons for the boxes.

The other group of viewers originally had felt they had taken all of the steps needed to receive the digital signals but, instead, learned they were still watching analog. The engineers at WHO-TV were there to assist the callers in walking them through their systems to find where the problems were, and to get them to the digital broadcast.

“We are going to be here for our viewers every step of the way,” Mr. Woods said, “and I think we proved that with this test.”

Once again, I would like to salute Mr. Woods and the whole team at WHO-TV for an outstanding job of keeping the public informed on the transition from analog to digital television.