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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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Digital Transition Answers



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
Baton Rouge, La. WGMB/WVLA/WBRL/KZUP
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)

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Comments (27)

JD in the Quiet Corner:

Mary,

Just wondering, but is there any listing of stations that will do a "flash cut" before the all-but-certain 12 June extension?

I was watching WSBE-DT (Providence, R.I., PBS) this afternoon and they aired a breif statement that said their analog transmitter experienced a "catastrophic failure" on 15 January and have decided to broadcast only in digital. Can't really argue with that --- doesn't make much sense to throw money at something that will only be in use for a few months anyway. But, I'd just also point out that it's been since that date that the digital channel really started to come in for us. Had tried to scan for it previously when we got the new HDTV and it was just picking up analog. Now, I'm getting it quite often even on the XG-91 (very directional) antenna that's pointed over 30 degrees away! Doesn't seem to be an transmitter power change, either, it's been at 50 kW and post-transition plans show no intent to change. Don't quite know what to account for this, but as the quote goes, it's not for me to ask why or whither but just enjoy the ice cream while it's on the plate.

Best,

mary... the cat lady:

Howdy JD,

Good to hear from you again. In answer to your first question, no, I do not know of a quick list of stations that will flash cut.
The list that I posted on the blog came from a regional forum that I visit, and was given by one of the engineers that works for a television station broadcaster.
I have run across "flash cut" notifications while perusing the FCC files, but I know of no place where there would be a list of stations that have notified to flash cut.
What is amazing to me is the jumber of "catastrophic failures" there have been involving analog transmitters lately... Hhmmm, make you wonder, doesn't it?
At first glance, it may be coincidence that you started getting WSBE. I would suspect tropospheric conditions. I have been having phenominal distant reception myself off and on for the last couple of weeks. I was getting 14 of the 17 full power Houston digital stations off the back of the antenna tonight. When aimed toward the Houston tower farm, KIAH was coming in with an 80% signal. So I would suspect tropo, especially at only 50 KW.
You are right about no power increse. There are no pending apps for WSBE.
It is kind of fun to see what you can get at different times isn't it? My "biggest catch" so far is from about 400 miles away so far. With analog, it was about 1500 miles. I caught KOB, channel 2 out of Albuquerque, NM one night. Briefly. But enough to catch a comercial tha allowed me to log the station in. If I could have hung it on the wall, I would have. (Well probably not, but...)
It's chocolate mint ice cream on the plate, right?

mary... the cat lady:

I meant to add last night that although I don't know what kind of weather you have been having where you are, I do know that down here when the weather is clear and cold (well, cold for us, that is) is when the reception is at its best.

mary... the cat lady:

Hey again JD,

I found a digital transition list this morning that lists the stations that have posted notices of intent to flash cut.
The list can be found at www.rabbitears.info/dtr.php
They are listed by state.

mary... the cat lady:

Oops. The listings are by market size. sorry 'bout that.

JD in the Quiet Corner:

Mary,

Thanks for the link. Interesting to see that *many* stations that are switching digital channel allocations will be flash-cutting on 17 Feb.

Regarding the troposphere, when using my Boston-pointed antenna, several off-the-back Hartford channels and 30-degree-away Providence channels have come in very reliably in all kinds of weather. I'm not counting on this, and once the leaves return, I may have to hit the A-B switch to the Providence-pointed one more often. Since the new antenna system's been up, we've run the gamut --- short of a hurricane, where I'll probably take out of the mast just to be safe, tho we haven't had a strong one in quite a while up here (knock on wood) --- if you recall Mark Twain's quip about the weather in New England.

Won't know *for sure* what the performance will be until we see a full year's weather cycle (I installed it last summer and tweaked it in later autumn). This performance in what is labeled a low-signal spot. The xg-91 with CM7777 preamp and CM3044 distribution amp performs very well; am *reliably* getting stations down to -108 according to tvfool. I haven't given much time to DX'ing, and up here we don't have the terrain conducive to that --- I'm ecstatic enough to get Boston at ~56 miles! Especially compared to our teevee situation just a few years ago.

Green Monster mint, actually: http://www.hphood.com/products/prodDetail.aspx?id=679

Hope you're enjoying Lost so far. Finale looked great in digital last year. Now, it's spectacular in HD.

May be heading to WNY soon and will be bringing up the coupon I got for an older, non-technical relative up there. They are ~ 19 miles from the Rochester farm. Last time I was up there, the reception literally looked like a Jackson Pollack painting. Aluminum siding. Yikes!

mary... the cat lady:

Hey JD,
Green Monster Mint sounds good! I have never tried any Hood ice cream, but I would like to have a taste off between them and our Bluebell ice cream, and I would really like to be one of the judges... "Bleubell cows think Brenham is heaven".
I have really been enjoying "Lost" this season. Last week was a shocker... Charles Widmoor was one of the "others" on the island back in the '40's.
OOOO, aluminum siding is the stuff that reception nightmares are made of. Scary stuff.
It will be interesting to see how yor reception plays out over the course of a full year and 4 seasons of weather.
Your tropo figures are in line with mine for the Houston stations. All in the -100 range, with the lowest at -114.2
We have a couple of wayings about our weather down here too... The most notorious of which claims that you have a choice with our air... You can either breathe it or drink it.
Stay in touch, OK?

EmmGee-Ohio:

"I was watching WSBE-DT (Providence, R.I., PBS) this afternoon and they aired a breif statement that said their analog transmitter experienced a "catastrophic failure" on 15 January "

You know, that sounds VERY similar to WTVS-56, Detroit's Statement. They claim that on 12-15-09, the analog tower malfuntioned...and may not be there the next morning.

I saw that and immediately thought...."scare tactic!"

I'm kina wondering what would happen if stations went digital only on the 15th, even if there is a delay. Would we see fines? Somehow, i can picture it. Obama does not seem to be very Broadcast friendly.... if not to be on screen as "THE STAR."

What about stations like WBGU-27 Bowling Green/Lima/Toledo? They made a total switch on 12-15-08. Will they get penalized for not being in the public interest, by keeping analog?

Fame and glory seems to be the main reason he likes broadcasters. He appears to not be on thier side, AM/FM or TV. He loves you if you show off his purple/brown colored lipstick (nevermind the makup demarkation at the temples and forehead).

I have a feeling that all broadscasters will not find a friend in Obama and the "NEW" FCC.

EmmGee-Ohio:

"The list can be found at www.rabbitears.info/dtr.php
They are listed by state."

read a few blogs back... i posted it before.

EmmGee-Ohio:

Mary, part of the site shows what a station is broadcasting at... 480i, 720P, etc. I love that list.

mary... the cat lady:

There will be no repercusions to stations that end analog broadcasting early, if they notify the FCC of their intent to do so, and their request meets the criteria of the FCC in regards to terminating analog early, such as a technical pr engineering problem. There has been a rash of "catastrophic failures" of transmitters and such across the nation. I have heard of several. Catastrophic Failure sounds like it would meet the criteria of the FCC, doesn't it?
Locally, KVHP had a "catastophic failure" of their analog transmitter, and has filed an app to end analog transmissions early. They immediately got their 1,000 KW digital transmitter up and running and haven't looked back. I believe that you will see many more "catastrophic transmitter failures" in the next few months since the transition date has been extended.
Yeah, Emm-Gee, it is a good site. I must have dropped the ball if you have listed it before.

mary... the cat lady:

Emm-Gee,
In some ways Obama may not seem very broadcast friendly, but for the consumer, I would expect that he will be friendlier than the previous administration was. I would extremely surprised if class C low powers did not have their status raised to the point where they will become covered by the "must carry" rules from cable companies. That, is broadcast friendly.
The issue was visited late last year, and interest was only indicated by the democratic appointees. The issue was dropped at the time, but I would fully expect it to be revisited in the near future.
So, in some ways maybe not, but in others, maybe so.

Anonymous:

Mary:

Just thought you might want to know that there was an article today in TVNEWSDAY, on the Hawaii switch.

"DTV Leaves Some Hawaiians in the Dark
By Debra Kaufman
TVNEWSDAY, Feb 5 2009, 11:18 AM ET

With most of its population scattered across eight volcanic islands, Hawaii — the Honolulu TV market (DMA 72) — is not an easy place to provide over-the-air TV service. For decades, many residents had to make do with one or two grainy stations.

Now, in the wake of the market's Jan. 15 switch to digital broadcasting, perhaps 1,000 homes are getting no signal at all.


"With digital, there's a cliff," said Mike Rosenberg, GM of ABC affiliate KITV. "These people are doing everything right and they've got no signal. Anybody who's had something for 50 years and loses it is upset.""

http://www.tvnewsday.com/articles/2009/02/05/daily.4/


I just thought a little news on the topic was needed.

EmmGee-Ohio:

"In some ways Obama may not seem very broadcast friendly, but for the consumer"

Tell that to thhose who are about to become "consumers" before 5 PM, within my company tommorrow. TV budget are partially to blame, since March is sweeps this year...and advertize budgets are non-existant now.


I pray that I am not one of those!

EmmGee-Ohio:

by the way, the electric budgets are overshadowing the budget of advertising. ...That's one of the reasons... per my corporate source. Obama just nailed the coffin shut!


Forgot tot add that.

mary... the cat lady:

Emm-Gee,
Yes, it is expensive to run an analog transmitter. $15,000/month is a reasonable expectation. In the neighborhood of $20,000 to $30,000 is not unheard of. And yes, that will overshadow the advertising income of a station in these hard economic times.
But any station who wants to end analog early can, upon notification to the FCC, and 30 days of notices to viewers. If a station were to wait until Feb. 17 to make notice, they could still end analog on March 14.
Analog broadcasting which was scheduled to go out with a bang on Feb. 17, will now go out with a wimper on June 12. How many more "catastrophic transmitter failures" do yo think will occur in the next few weeks?

EmmGee-Ohio:

I was luckily not in the cuts... thank God. However 10% of my co-workers were cut and all part timers, regardless of position and length of employ, either must take minimum wage (without adverse records in files, write ups or infractions)... or simply be fired. Its really too bad that it's come to this.

As for TX failures.... there will be a few, but I'm not really thinking that stations are caring. They will do what the bottom line allows. Including roll back wages and fire employees. So, going all digital makes sense.

I don't know if you caught my posting on the date as "whether February or June"... but I saw this one coming. I also see more jobless people in associated and supportive occupations affected, leading to more of the record job cuts.

Really, the government SHOULD bail out broadcasters, since they forced DTV on them in the early 90's to current date, at their own cost. The costs of new equipment, running 2 TX's on 1 stick, more production time, for PSA's and sub channels, etc.

You ever think about that? I do. That's one reason I don't think Obama is in our court. "Change" should mean fairness to all, not just in regards to auto companies and Hollywood Directors losing their homes in the hills. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for Broadcasters who didn't choose DTV costs.

Just my observation.

mary... the cat lady:

Emm-Gee,
I am really glad that you made the cuts. I am, however, sorry that many of your co-workers did not. I heard yesterday that there were 1 million jobs lost in January alone. It is going to get worse before it gets better. My best friend is down to 36 hrs/wk. it has happened before. I got caught up in it in the early 90's.
Please, don't forget that it was the whole of congress that forced this on the stations without compensation.
I think the beggest mistake was not mandating that the converter boxes have "pass through" for the remaining analog signals from the low powers. That kinda left them out in the cold.

Anonymous:

True true. That's why I really recommend the Tivax STB-T8, not so much the STB-T9. The ST8 still will allow me access to "Global," "A Channel," "CTV," "CBC," and some other lower power stations. Analog pass-through is very important for some info, due to FCC mandating "Endec" machines on stations, for automated info. I am also recomending the "dual tuners" that can record STV and DTV.

I know it was Congress... but that's a branch of the government. No matter what form or branch pushed it on all stations, it still should be made right... by some compensation. Seems that US TV stations are getting the shaft.

As for the cuts: I'm now doing "splits," by covering duties no longer being covered... at the same pay scale. Luckily, I still get bonuses and have medical, eye, dental, short and long term disability coverage.

I clearly see another round coming, somewhere near April. I know I called a few things right so far... I hope I am wrong on this one.... but somehow don't think I will be. The patterns I am already seeing point to that direction. I predict things on patterns and behaviors. They tend to be very accurate.

mary... the cat lady:

Well, I do wish you the best of luck, and I too hope you are misreading this next prediction of yours.

mary... the cat lady:

Well, it is official. President Obama signed the delay bill today.
However, there are at laeast 491 stations that will end analog broadcasts anyway on the 17th. And in addition to those, are some that have already turned off their analog transmitters and are now broadcasting digital only signals.
So, it comes to about a third of the television stations in the US will be digital only on the 17th anyway. And I would expect that some more will trickle over to digital in the coming weeks. If a station were to request to end analog broadcasts by the 17th, then the earliest that they would be able to end analog would be March 14.

EmmGee-Ohio:

NOT SO FAST! my former market, La Crosse, Wi... Yes with a space between both words, to show it's proper name, was stopped. 8, 19, 25, and 31 were all stopped by the FCC. Other fringe stations were also stopped. Yes, you do get KTTC 10 and 67 (KTTC's translator in La Crosse), but the market is "La Crosse/ Eau Claire. KTTC was not going to change. That means the NBC out of Eau Claire was also going to change, WEAU 13. There is no translator for WEAU. The LP station, KQEG 23, does not carry one of the networks that the FCC was looking at. They do not consider CW or America One as the networks that are likely to have newscasts. They only looked at ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. Other networks like MY NET, RTN, Independant stations, and religious stations are not likely to carry news, without issues.

So you may want to check that again. Wausaw, near La Crosse, was also struck down. Same exact reasons.

The FCC still can strike down other stations, so "491" isn't really the number to quote... I would say "around 450 or so, for now," since the numbers can change again... and probably will.

mary... the cat lady:

Actualy, the FCC stopped 123 stations from making the switch to all digital broadcasts.
The FCC said that they would reconsider an application if at least one major network station (with news) in each market would agree to stay on the air with analog, and set up a "walk in" center where the public could come in and get help to apply for coupons and get hands on help in setting up the converter boxes.
However, to be reconsidered, those conditions had to be met by yesterday.

mary... the cat lady:

Due to technical corrections to the list of station that were required to file for re-consideration, there ended up only 106 stations that were required to do so.
53 stations were re-certified by the FCC to end analog broadcasts on Feb. 17 after agreeing to comply with the public interest conditions set forth by the FCC including 5 stations in the La Crosse/ (please forgive me for my former mis-spelling faux-pas)Eau Claire market. Including stations WEUX/WQOW/WKBT/WLAX/WXDW.
10 stations made applications to show alternate showings. Those are under review by the FCC and they hope to make a determination before Feb. 17.
43 stations have decided to continue analog broadcasting past Feb. 17.

EmmGee-Ohio:

WXDW... funny how you got that mispelled now. Too funny... it's "WXOW TV 19 La Crosse"

Any word on WEAU NBC 13?

By the way... all the above La Crosse stations and Eau Claire stations are related to one another, with exception to WKBT newschannel 8 and the above WEAU.

WEUX and WLAX are sister stations, simulcasting on 25/48. WXOW and WQOW (yes WAOW and WKOW too) are simulcasting on 18 and 19 along with 9 and 27, with exception t newscasts. 9 (WAOW) and 27 (WKOW) have their own. 18 and 19 are exactly the same, except ID's.

mary... the cat lady:

I was looking at a government document when I mistook the "O" for a "D". Looked like a "D" to me.
WEAU-DT was granted a Special Temporary Authority to operate on channel 13 as of 2-10-09.
WEAU ended analog broadcasts on the 17th.
They supposedly built the final facility in December, and should be up and running. Are they not?

mary... the cat lady:

KBMT did not end analog transmissions on the 17th. We will not know until the binding date for ending analog notice is filed with the FCC on the 17th of March when KBMT will end the analog and continue on channel 50 under a Special Temporary Authority until the channel 12 DTV transmitter is built.

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