Archive for February 18, 2009

DTV transition: A third of stations are all-digital as of today

Despite the recent bill to delay the date by which all of the nation's full-power television stations will turn off their old analog transmitters and go to all-digital broadcasting, more than a third of all stations will be digital-only by the end of today—originally the final day of the DTV transition.

Some 432 of the nation's 1,795 full-power television stations have received permission from the Federal Communications Commission to turn off their analog signals today. That's on top of an additional 220 such stations that have already switched over to digital.

The agency had said that how many viewers in a market are prepared for the transition would be considered when deciding whether to grant requests. And in 25 markets where all of the major network affiliates had asked to turn off their analog signals on February 17th the FCC added some additional requirements. At least one of the stations in those markets will have to continue analog broadcasts, at least for local news, emergency information, and instructional programming on the digital switchover.

The markets where limited-analog broadcasts will be required are:

  • Albuquerque-Santa Fe, NM
  • Binghamton, NY
  • Bluefield-Beckley, WV
  • Burlington, VT-Plattsburgh, NY
  • Charleston-Huntington, WV
  • Charlottesville, VA
  • Columbus-Tupelo, MS
  • Duluth, MN-Superior, WI
  • Eugene, OR
  • Greenwood-Greenville, MS
  • La Cross-Eau Claire, WI
  • Madison, WI
  • Meridian, MS
  • Providence, RI-New Bedford, MA
  • Hannibal, MO
  • Rockford, IL
  • San Angelo, TX
  • Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo, CA
  • Sioux City, IA
  • South Bend-Elkhart, IN
  • Springfield, MA
  • Topeka, KS
  • Victoria, TX
  • Waco-Temple, TX
  • Wheeling, WV-Steubenville, OH

In those cases, the local stations worked out agreements among themselves on which stations will continue broadcasting in analog and which ones will terminate their analog signals today.

Last week, Consumers Union, the parent company for Consumer Reports, identified five cities it concluded were least prepared for all-digital TV and likely to be severely impacted by allowing all the network affiliates in those markets to shut down. Fortunately, in those cities—Tulsa, OK; Dayton, OH; Milwaukee, WI; Mobile AL; and Fort Wayne IN—all or most of the network affiliates have now agreed to continue broadcasting in analog.

The FCC also granted 11 stations special “hardship waivers” because, regardless of their market's readiness for digital TV, the agency decided forcing them to continue their analog broadcasts past today would impose unacceptable economic or technical problems. There will still be at least one station broadcasting in analog in all of those stations’ markets, with the exception of Wausau-Rhinelander, WI, where all of the network affiliated stations will be allowed to go digital-only.

As for the country's remaining full-power stations, it appears the bulk of them will wait until a new transition date of June 12th passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last week. But it is still possible many of those stations will seek FCC approval to snuff out their analog signals sometime before June 12th "final" date.

The FCC has most of this information on its web site in the form of Excel and PDF files, but we warn you that it is pretty confusing. The agency also has a phone service at 1-888-CALLFCC.

Meanwhile, it's still unclear how soon new or reissued DTV coupons to defray the cost of purchasing digital-to-analog converter boxes will get into consumers' hands. so they could keep receiving free, over-the-air television after the switchover to digital. That's despite inclusion of an additional 0 million for the coupon program as part of the stimulus package signed today by the president.

How's the digital transition going for you, or your communities? Leave your comments below or with our colleagues at The Consumerist [See their post: The DTV Transition Has Been Delayed, But Some Stations Are Going Forward]. And for much more information on the digital television transition, including converter box ratings and videos (Click on the player above to see a free "How to hook up your DTV converter box" video), go to Consumer Reports' Guide to the Digital TV Transition.

—Bob Williams

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This could have been one giant leap…

Or one giant trip, stumble and fall. Today was supposed to be the big day we switch off those analog transmitters, and broadcast exclusively in digital from now on. Unfortunately, that isn’t happening today for all stations, but a few do get to make the switch tonight at midnight.

We will keep the analog signal on until June 12th. Only WLFL, WRDC and WRAY will switch analog off tonight here in the Triangle. It will be a good demonstration which cable systems are ready, but we do know it will not have an impact on the major cable and satellite systems, as well as those viewers that have already upgraded to DTV receivers.

The message is clear that unfortunately, there’s still a lot of homes that aren’t ready. The NTIA still does not have the money to start sending coupons out again, and predict it will take several weeks to get the backlog out to consumers. Mark my words again, when your coupon arrives, GO SHOPPING Immediately!

Not only get the box in hand, hook it up and scan for the channels. I’m still getting emails from people that are just getting around to hooking these boxes up. Go ahead and try it out to see how it works. If you have reception problems, don’t panic. You are at the spot with the most information available on antennas, and how to get he most out of them. I’m repeating myself here, the antenna is the most critical part of the system. Get it right, and you’ll be in good shape. Get it wrong, and you’ll be upset. There’s no in-between like with analog. It is either perfect, or it is a mess. Get off the digital cliff with a good antenna, and you’ll be happy. Do nothing and whine, and you’ll be a whiny, lonely person with no friends coming over to watch TV with you.

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