DTV Switchover on Track as Midnight Approaches

Feb 17, 2009  •  Post A Comment

General managers are tightening the bolts and preparing for the reaction to their digital transitions as a midnight DTV deadline looms for 421 stations.
The Federal Communications Commission announced over the weekend that the original list of 368 stations approved to transition before June 12 had grown to 421. That came after a review of local markets that worked out an agreement to keep some stations in analog in order for viewers to have access to emergency broadcasts and news.
For TVWeek’s comprehensive coverage of the digital television transition, visit the DTV Switch Navigator page.
The digital transition today will set the stage for June 12, as the rest of the country switches over from analog television transmission to digital. A smooth transition today could mean an even smoother move in June, while a difficult changeover could leave general managers concerned about their markets this summer.
Some stations, such as WINK-TV in Fort Myers, Fla., have already thrown the switch, to little public outcry. WINK said it received only a half-dozen calls within the first hour of digital-only broadcasting after it shut off its analog signal at 12:10 p.m. EST.
However, a number of stations are waiting until the last possible moment, 11:59 p.m. tonight, to shut off their analog transmitters.
CBS affiliate WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vt., will make the transition tonight. The station has to deal with the additional difficulty of switching its channel position, according to President and General Manager Peter Martin.
Currently running its digital signal on channel 53, WCAX will switch over to channel 22 around 4 a.m. EST.
At that time, WCAX’s analog signal will switch over to 60 days of “enhanced night-light service,” with news and a repeating broadcast that will inform viewers why they are seeing the message as opposed to standard programming and how to correct that.
Mr. Martin said he’s received about 150 calls in the past week regarding the digital transition. Burlington-Plattsburgh is the 92nd largest market in the country, with 331,000 television viewing households.
He said he’s expecting the calls to start rolling in tomorrow around 7 a.m., as viewers wake up not to CBS’ “The Early Show,” but to the night-light broadcast. Overall, he said, he’s expecting a smooth transition tomorrow, with a caveat.
“We are dealing with the innate perversity of inanimate objects,” he said. WCAX is making the leap to digital early, as transmitter technicians were scheduled to perform work on the antennas tonight.
Rescheduling the work, Mr. Martin said, would not guarantee the fixes would get done in time for June 12.
For the most part, Mr. Martin is positive that the technical changes plus viewer awareness will equal a relatively problem-free transition.
“It looks like it’s going to go OK,” he said. “Call me tomorrow at this time, and I might have an entirely different view.”
(Daisy Whitney and Ira Teinowitz contributed to this report.)

One Comment

  1. I’ve been receiving the San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose
    PBS stations for over a month, and suddenly today, Feb 18, they all disappeared and I cannot get a signal with any positioning of the antenna.
    Any ideas what’s happened?
    A Dougherty

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