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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!

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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.

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