FCC Sets Wilmington, N.C., as Digital-Switch Test Market, Sources Say

May 7, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is set to announce Thursday that the agency will run a test of the switch to digital broadcasting signals in Wilmington, N.C., the smallest TV market in the Tarheel state, sources said.
The congressionally mandated national switch to digital takes place Feb. 17. The FCC didn’t return multiple calls seeking comment.
The test in North Carolina, Mr. Martin’s home state, is likely to take place before the November sweeps ratings period. If things do not go smoothly during the trial run, it could affect stations’ revenues during one of the months used to set advertising rates for the next fiscal quarter.
The Wilmington market, served by affiliates of all the major networks, is the 135th largest measured by Nielsen Media Research, which says 179,760 of the 182,500 homes in the area have televisions.
WWAY-TV, owned by Morris Multimedia, is the ABC affiliate in the area. NBC-affiliated WECT-TV and Fox-affiliated WSFX-TV are owned by Raycom Media. WILM-TV is the CBS affiliate owned by Capitol Broadcasting Co. WMYW-LP is the MyNetworkTV affiliate, and The CW has a cable-only affiliate. The market gets its public broadcast signal from WUNJ-TV.
Local broadcasters did not return calls seeking comment.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has been pushing for a test in a small market that met certain criteria, including that all broadcast stations’ digital signals already are on the air on the same channels where they will be found when the official digital switch takes place.
“This is very good news for the DTV transition,” Mr. Copps said in a statement. “Real-world experience is an extremely important step—although only one of many—that will help minimize consumer disruption next February. Broadway shows open on the road to work out the kinks before opening night. The DTV transition deserves no less.”
The idea is to learn, among other things, how many TV homes may be unprepared for the transition, which will require viewers to have digital sets, boxes that can convert digital broadcast signals to analog on older sets, or delivery of programs by cable or satellite services.
The sources who confirmed the announcement of the test weren’t able to say when it may begin. However, the trial run will be preceded by a big education campaign by local stations about converter boxes and the availability of coupons worth $40 toward the purchase of the converters through local retailers.
Throughout the country, some 1 million coupons have been used as part of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration’s converter box coupon program, according to recent information.
(Editors: Jensen, Baumann. Updated at 5:40 p.m. to add Copps statement.)


  1. It is my understanding that analog TV transmission ends at midnight 17 February. That being the case, then the digital transition does not take place “on 17 February” as noted in your article. The digital transition starts on 18 February.

  2. Wow, talk about nit-picking. If you’re not ready the 17th, who gives a darn when “technically” the transition takes place? I bet you celebrated the “New Millennium” on midnight Dec 31 2000 too. Loosen up. Jeeze.

  3. the analog era ends at 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 17, 2009

  4. This so-called “test” looks more like a last gasp effort by those against the entire analog-to- digital switchover. What can it possibly prove?

  5. Converters are not on many retailer’s shelves. Are they in short supply? How many coupons have actually been used??? My coupons expire the end of this month. This has put me in panic-mode as I can’t find a DTV “pass-thru” + “smart antenna” converter anyplace in Minneapolis / St. Paul. The Government has done its job, but the Supply Chain is not working.

  6. After the switch there will still be analog
    It is called pirates.

  7. All FULL POWER television stations must make
    the switch in Feb. 2009. That leaves many
    smaller stations that will still be analog

  8. Does anyone know what percentage of OTA viewers watch LPTV, translators, and repeaters? I know there are a lot of these stations out there and that they are more numerous than Full Power stations, but I do not think they have more than 10% of the Full Power OTA audience. That would give them at most 2% of the total households in the US, by my rough calculation. Any thoughts on this.

  9. The cutover to digital in Wilmington will be at noon EDT on Monday, September 8.
    All the Wilmington commercial stations are running their post-transition facilities at full power. The FCC chairman mentioned that at the press conference in Washington yesterday.
    The ABC, Fox and NBC stations are full-power; Raycom operates (not owns) the Fox station under a local sales agreement. The CBS station is low-power (WILM-LP).
    A translator for religious network Trinity Broadcasting (W51CW) will also cut over to digital on September 8.
    The PBS station will not participate as it is part of statewide network UNC-TV.
    One other low-power station will stay analog even though it has a digital assignment.

  10. I’m waiting on the riots and the blood in the streets.
    (Been predicting it for over 5 years…. doesn’t matter if you GIVE away the converter boxes on the streetcorner….)

  11. We have found bixes in our Central Indiana area at the big box appliance stores (Gregg’s and Circuit City) and Wal-Marts. They are all 59.99 and made by Zenith. Wish we could locate some of the other brands mentioned in the $40.00 card mailing we received! (Rather suspicious!) By the way, these will only work with the special HDTV amplified antennas (an additional $30-$40) we had discovered, and to that end, cannot receive all of the HDTV signals in our market. Yep, there will be problems ahead for the folks without cable or satellite. Want to bet on a last minute extension of analog service anyone????

  12. I have been receiving digital for some time now, and find those signals are at least as strong as the analogs. So you don’t have to have an amplified antenna unless you are so far away you need the amp for analog.
    Most of the Electronic stores around here have the converters for about $20 over the coupon. Walmart sells them for $10 over.
    You are correct in saying some (perhaps all) of the coupons expire in early June.

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