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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



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.

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Comments (6)

EmmGee-Ohio:

Yes, Analog 6 should be missed. Reason being, that lifeline is only for a short time. What if there is a disaster, such as a hurricane, serial murder, etc.? The only other thing I can think of... Internet broadcasting , for info... once the "night light" goes out.

My local PBS (WGTE-30 and virtual 29) kept doing PBS digital stories yesterday. The most comprehensive... Iowa Public TV's on DTV antennas. It showed how simple objects assist in "signal breathing" which makes signal come and go, at will. This makes the TV signal come and go, or stay or pixelate. Signal breathing happens normally, just as MP3's have rate breathing (meaning the mp3's not always at 128K... like you think... they're always fluctuating in rate, even though they are constant bit rate).

This really is ANOTHER TEST. It will show what is really wrong with either the viewers being ready... by their own accord, not being ready by not knowing something about DTV (which is hard to believe), what is wrong with broadcasting signals, what is wrong with TV engineers who do not want to deal with consumer issues on this topic (there's plenty out there, seems most work for "Disney").

Along with my local PBS, the adjacent MYNET affiliate is gone as well. Same goes for that same market's ION station... meaning I have to turn the antenna (which I recently discovered worked... which was not like that before) to watch my nightly "Boston Legal" and "NCIS," via virtual 33... or 31.1.

Let's hope that this test will work to get people in the know on what they need to do.... and those of you in the public who have issues.... BE MORE PUBLIC ON THOSE ISSUES. I cannot stress the second enough.

A friend of mine said he experiences the same megapixelations that I had received... and sometimes still get. I told him to let the guy know he needs to be a "big mouth" about that. I feel that in Toledo, Ohio, I am probably the biggest mouth about DTV and the real problems. Things get looked at and then get done, if numbers are talking and complaining.

Point being... this is a test. If the test IS NOT 100% SUCCESSFUL, OR NOT CABLE TV QUALITY, 100% OF THE TIME for you... GET VERY LOUD! Now is your chance to do something about it. The FCC needs to know something is wrong with their blind calculations on DTV propagation, in some circumstances.They only calculated for outside reception issues.

mary... the cat lady:

I could not have said it better myself.
Somehow, I just don't have any trouble at all imagining that you can get very loud about something you are as passionate about as this. And that is a good thing. :)

EmmGee-Ohio:

Thjis is just a simple reminder, since the switch had happened...

Do A TOTAL SCAN of stations... or A REPLACEMENT scan, instead of an add-on scan. some stations are moving frequencies and this guarantees that you get the stations you need, without adding subchannels that won't have a picture (such as 33.1, 33.2, 33.3, 33.4, 33.5, 33.6, 33.7, 33.8, when there are only 4 subchannels on 33).

If you cannot get your local station, totally rescan. If this doe not work, Call the station.

I had to do this with "ION DETROIT" or DTV 31.1 to 31.4. They moved frequencies after having a digital tower issue.

Doing this will save allot of headaches.

mary... the cat lady:

The problem with doing a total re-scan is the possibility of not being able to re-lock in a weak station.
I f you had a problem locking in one or more stations, and you have to have the antenna pointed just right, it probably would be worth it to merely do an add-on search.
None of the boxes I have had any experience have any trouble just adding the channels that are presently being broadcast on. I realized there may be a few, but if it were me, and it will be come the transition date, I would do an add-on to eliminate the possibility of losing a channel that may be hard to lock onto again. Especially if you are getting channels from different directions, and the station changing channels post transition is in only one direction.
You can always elect to do a total re-scan later if you desire, but I would argue to do an add on scan first.

EmmGee-Ohio:

According to the programming lady in Tampa Bay, FLa... at ION... I did the right thing. I think the gals name was Arianna... or something like that. She wanted me to do a total scan, days after I asked why I couldn't lock them in. Turned out... TX issues...and when I did an "ADD ON," it added to the station, but none were viewable. However, this was a few days before ION called me back to do a full scan. Dialling in 33.1 or 31.1 did nothing. No picture was displayed.

So, I am not the only one to say do a "total scan."

As for weak stations, if you scan daily, add on-wise, you should eventually get the weaker signal. according to several differing sources, and a s I have mentioned, 8-vsb is the weaker of transmitting modulation methods. wind, rain, planes, cars/trucks, trees and their leaves, structures and yes, even antenna mounting for frequencies (as in distance from one antenna to another) all can interfere.

Truth be told, you dodn't know if something like rain or wind may have weakend the signal more. That's why you scan several times for the first week or two. Some days, WADL 39, is not coming in... other days WWJ 44 always doesn't, even though its the strongest signal, from Detroit (usually 60-90%, with signal breathing). Also generic signal breathing along with sea reflection, known as "tide fade."

Too many factors are involved to just scan 1 time. However, I recommend a total scan, ION did as well, without me asking about it.

mary... the cat lady:

I suppose that they both have their pluses and minuses. As far myself, I prefer the add-on scan. I have a station that is a second tier, very weak signal that usually only comes in at night. It shows to be a -3.5 noise margin on the tvfool web site. I have to have the antenna pointed exactly right to be able to recieve this station. It is the only OTA PBS station that can be viewed here.
It is one thing to access the channel and then be able to turn the antenna until a signal is obtained, and quite to do a total re-scan while trying to make sure the antenna is pointed in the precise direction. I don't want to risk losing a locked in weak station because of a total rescan.
Now, that being said, I made the mistake one night of locking in a distant (225 miles away) using the same virtual channel as a station that I can get from a neighboring DMA. Once I did that, I could no longer view the neighboting channel.
At that time, much to my chagrin, I had to do a total re-scan. Didn't see that one coming. This wa on my Sanyo HDTV. That is one thing that I like about my Zenith converter boxes... They have a manual tuner, and for the life of me, if they can do that in a $59 box, they could do it in $1000+ HDTVs! Put in a manual tuner for crying out loud.

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