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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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February 2009 Archives

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.