Tuesday, September 8, 2009

GUEST COLUMN: Cleveland Digital TV

OMW NOTE: We are basically no longer updating the Ohio Digital TV blog, which was designed to "carry the heavy load" during the period around the digital TV transition on June 12.

From now on, we will continue to post digital TV-related items on the regular Ohio Media Watch blog, like the item below...which we've copied over here for convenience.


Long-time OMW reader Trip Ericson (RabbitEars) gives us his take on the local digital TV situation, including potential channel availability should one of the Cleveland market stations wish to make a channel move...particularly the alleged CBS affiliate currently stuck on RF digital channel 10...


Hello, all!

I'm Trip Ericson, the lunatic behind the website RabbitEars.Info, and I've penned this special guest feature on Ohio Media Watch to try to address some of the questions about WOIO and where they could move assuming they wanted to jump ship from channel 10.

This entire article will be written with the assumption that channel 31 is reserved for WJW, even though in reality, it's not. If WOIO was to take channel 31, then this article would apply to WJW just as well. Channel 31 is an open channel by all standards, and would solve the problem for one, but not both, of the VHF broadcasters in the market.

The big problem with all of this is that the FCC's interference rules are rather vicious. In the analog world, there were hard distance limits. If you were x miles away, your station fit. If you were x-1 miles away, your station did not fit. Very simple to understand and very logical.

In digital, the FCC requires a Longley-Rice interference study. The FCC rule is that your allotment cannot create more than 0.5% new interference to any one station. That is to say, you can cause 0.49% interference to station A, and 0.49% interference to station B, and still be within the rules.

The software to run these studies is made available on the FCC website but only runs on a specific computer system. Any other software to perform these studies costs many thousands of dollars, putting it out of the reach of many. I have a friend with access to some software to run these analyses, and had hoped to have him run some studies on WOIO for me, but as press time approaches, he has not been online since I decided to write this article.

Cleveland being where it is, so close to the Canadians, also makes this complicated. To start with, let's look at the Cleveland-area vacant allotments according to Canada:

03 1024' 9 kW ND
05 1027' 9 kW ND
25 994' 67 kW ND
31 (Ignored)


39 958' 200 kW ND

Shaker Heights:
19 1151' 151 kW ND

43 1105' 170 kW ND

A few of these can be tossed out right away. 3 and 5, obviously, would be worse than 10 is now, and thus are removed from the list. 43 is useless due to proximity to WGGN-42, which would almost certainly be way, WAY above 0.5% interference. A signal on 25 would be crippled by KDKA in Pittsburgh and thus unable to adequately cover the area. So this leaves us with channels 19 and 39.

Now, these are just channels that the Canadians have already negotiated with the United States; there's nothing preventing more channels from being negotiated. Let's pull in some other channels to run through that might look good at first glance:

14, 18, 21, 27, 44, 51

Most of these can be tossed out right away:

14 and 18: These two look very clean, until you read through FCC regulations and learn they are reserved for "land mobile." That is, they're used for two-way communication in Pittsburgh among public safety and other licensees. There's a hard spacing rule of 155 miles that Cleveland simply does not meet.

21 and 44: Adjacent channel issues to WFMJ and WNEO aside, which would probably toss these two out right away, spacing to WMYD and WWJ in Detroit probably would do it too. I would not expect either of these allotments to work out.

19 and 51: These frequencies, though promising, have adjacent channel problems. 19 would likely fail with regard to WFMJ-20, and 51 would certainly fail with respect to WEAO-50. Thus, these channels are not under consideration.

At this point, we now see that what started out as a pretty interesting list of channels under consideration, is now narrowed down to two possibilities: Channels 27 or 39. Let's analyze them.

Channel 27: On the adjacent channels, we find WVIZ-26 and WUAB-28, both of which are co-located and thus would not cause any issues. This leaves us with co-channel concerns. WBGU on 27 is probably far enough away that a minor directional null would safely protect it, though this should be checked with an interference study. The big problem is CKCO-DT-3 in Sarnia, which is allotted 994' 810 kW. Even with a WKYC-style directional pattern, I'm not sure that the Canadians would be willing to accept a channel 27 in Cleveland.

Channel 39: This one is more promising than channel 27. The adjacent channels are more than 100 miles away, which means that interference to them should be minimal. There's a Class A at 92 miles that could be an issue, but an interference study would be needed to determine how much of a problem it would be. WADL is both directional away from Cleveland, and on a short tower, and I suspect would not be a problem. Plus, channel 39 already existed as an allotment for WDLI, so the chances of it working are good. My question would be just how much power they could run on 39. It's possible that it wouldn't be enough to satisfy them.

Now, I was staring at it for a while, and I came up with another possibility that might actually be superior to either channel 27 or 39, but I'm not sure how much of a problem it will cause.

Channel 33 caught my eye because it was clean except for a single Canadian station at 76 miles. CICO-TV-59 (analog 59/digital 33) is only allotted 492' 4 kW ND (that's not a typo) on channel 33. I don't know a lot about Canadian allotments, but unless I missed something, it looks like the currently unbuilt CICO-TV-59 digital signal could be moved from channel 33 to channel 20. This would actually reduce interference that it would receive from adjacent channels.

Relocating CICO-TV-59 would then open up channel 33 for use in Cleveland. The only concern would be to CICO-TV-32 in Windsor, allotted 703' 350 kW ND. A slight directional pattern might protect it if it's even an issue. I wonder what the Canadians would say to this proposal, given that the vacant but agreed upon channel 31 allotment is also adjacent to it. Perhaps WOIO could trade the current channel 19 analog antenna to CICO-TV-59 to use on channel 20 digital, assuming it's usable for that.

It seems perfectly logical. I suppose that's why it would never happen.

Ultimately, after all that study and analysis, the most certain answer I can give is "I don't know."

Without the ability to run an interference study, channel 39 looks the best, but that's no guarantee that it works in a satisfactory manner. I would suspect that if WOIO wanted to get off of channel 10 bad enough and they were not in the Canadian border zone, they could make it work regardless, but the Canadians are an unknown.

Finally, I'd like to direct readers to a project I've been working on. I have been teaching myself PHP through coding a project for RabbitEars. I put it in public beta last week and it's currently called the "DX Tool." I plan to change that name, as it's misleading in that it's not just for DXers.

I would like to ask readers of Ohio Media Watch who use over the air to consider trying out the DX Tool. By doing this, the DX Tool allows for the inversion of the reception reports to form a coverage map based on real world reports.

Sign up and submit reception reports for your local stations and maybe we can fill in this map with data showing just how bad reception is for WOIO, plus reception issues for WJW or maybe other stations as well can be shown on their own respective maps.

Thank you to Ohio Media Watch for giving me the opportunity to write this essay. Continue the great work!

Friday, August 7, 2009

WOIO Gets Clearance For Power Boost

(The following is a reprint of an item posted on the main OMW blog.)

Trip Ericson, creator of the RabbitEars.info website, passes along word that the alleged Cleveland market CBS affiliate has been a construction permit by the FCC for a power increase.

It's the 10.3 kW facility Raycom Media's WOIO/19 Shaker Heights (RF channel 10) applied for in mid-2008, which would be a slight bump up from the current 3.5 kW facility being used by the station. It'd also be slightly higher up on the station's tower - 361 meters height above average terrain, vs. 304 for the current DT 10 facility.

Trip and others have told us in the past that you "shouldn't expect much" whenever that new facility makes it to the air.

It's still rather low in power level, and does virtually nothing to solve reception problems north of the Parma antenna farm...for very good reason, as Canadian-cross-Lake-Erie powerhouse CFPL/10 London ON is still on the air, and needs signal protection.

And it'll need that protection from Cleveland even after Canadian TV goes all digital in a couple of years, as CFPL has filed to remain on channel 10 in the digital age.

But...it's at least slight movement, and maybe some people will have a better shot at the signal.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Letter To Dave Folsom

Oh, sometimes poking a little fun is too easy.

In an earlier item, ODTV cited an article by TVNewsday's Harry Jessell about the problems experienced by VHF digital TV operators. Jessell cited such things as VHF's vulnerability to impulse noise, and the more widespread use of indoor antennas in 2009.

Dave Folsom took keyboard to E-mail client, and has written a response to Jessell's earlier article in a "Letter to the Editor" published today on the trade website. (Don't go to the link yet! You'll spoil the surprise!)

Mr. Folsom takes everyone to task, from the FCC for ignoring higher power recommendations for VHF DTV operations...to antenna manufacturers for poor performance and misleading labeling regarding VHF reception. He also talks about the need for better performance out of tuners and converter boxes.

Quoting Mr. Folsom:

VHF DTV transmission can work as well as UHF transmission if it is allowed enough transmission power, receiver performance improves and indoor and outdoor antennas are designed to receive both spectrum bands properly.

It also could work "as well" if a TV station owner did not insist upon grabbing a VHF allocation that will be forever hampered by a powerful analog (and later, digital) signal in another nearby country, which carries across a Great Lake back into the United States.

Which TV station owner would do that, perhaps?

Why, Raycom Media...which owns Cleveland market CBS affiliate WOIO/19, refusing to budge from RF channel 10 for its digital operation, which is across Lake Erie from powerful London, Ontario-based CFPL/10...which, like Windsor/Detroit area powerhouse CKLW/800, actually had historic over-air coverage in parts of the Cleveland market back in the day.

And that's where we spring the surprise.

Dave Folsom isn't just any reader of the TVNewsday site.

He's VP/Chief Technology Officer for...you guessed it!...Raycom Media, the owner of WOIO and sister MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB/43. He and his bosses are the people responsible for WOIO's current digital over-air TV mess.

Now, we don't disagree with most of Dave's basic points.

It's clear to us, for example, that VHF power levels are not nearly what they should be.

WOIO, for example, has been putting out a below-anemic 3.5 kW while it struggles on RF channel 10. It's trying to get an increase to a whopping 10.3 kW (oooh, ahh), but is having trouble coordinating that with the signal of...umm...CFPL in Canada. (Hey! How'd that station get there!)

VHF life would be easier for WOIO if it hadn't squeezed in next to CFPL. Digital over-air life for the station would probably be better if it hadn't abandoned UHF 19 for digital operation, but that horse is well out of the barn now.

And even if you needed a rooftop antenna to get CFPL back in the day here, WOIO still has to design its facility to protect the station's viewership on the Canadian site of Lake Erie, meaning power limits and directional antenna patterns.

The same protection needs hampered pre-transition digital applications by Winston Broadcasting CW affiliate WBNX/55 Akron (which eventually managed to light up RF 30), and ION O&O WVPX/23 Akron (which never got approval for pre-transition RF 59, and had to flash cut to 23 at the DTV transition last month).

A power level increase is not The End Answer for VHF DTV. Mr. Folsom makes some very valid points about receiver and antenna performance for VHF, and poor labeling.

But when your DTV transmitter is pushing out less than 4 kW (!) co-channel with a Canadian signal that can ride the waves of Lake Erie right towards your market...that is not any answer, and even 10 kW won't help that situation.

Mr. Folsom's company also owns CBS affiliate WTOL/11 Toledo, and a commenter to the TVNewsday item talks about VHF DTV problems there...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Some Hope For WJW Signal?

We're not sure we're releasing the balloons and celebrating just yet, but an OMW/ODTV reader is sharing what could be good news for those over-air digital viewers struggling to receive Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8.

The reader dropped WJW a note via an online contact form, noting the station's VHF related troubles...and joining the rather large chorus hoping to get the station to move back to its pre-transition UHF digital assignment of RF channel 31.

A reply came back...our reader noting the name atop it, of WJW's Todd Meany. He's been the newsroom's "point man" on the digital TV transition, and is listed on the above linked contact form.

Assuming our reader isn't just making this up out of thin air, here's Meany's response:

"We would love to go back to channel 31, and in fact the FCC is talking about letting stations around the country, who are in the same situation as we are, go back to their former channels. We hope this happens sooner rather than later."

Assuming that is Todd, he's actually a bit behind the times in information.

Local TV Fox affiliate sister station WGHP/8 in the Greensboro/High Point NC market has already lit up, under FCC special temporary authority, its former digital signal on UHF 35.

A list by RabbitEars' Trip Ericson details moves by VHF stations across the country to fix or supplement their signal - somehow, either temporarily or permanently. It lists WGHP as currently operating both VHF 8 and UHF 35.

Another sister station of WJW in the Local TV group, KSTU/Salt Lake City, is listed as opting to hang onto pre-transition UHF 28 instead of staying on VHF 13.

And also significant to ODTV, it shows Sinclair ABC affiliate WSYX in Columbus petitioning to move its RF channel from VHF 13 to UHF 48. (It was, of course, on analog 6.) There are no listings (yet?) for ABC O&O WTVG/13 and Raycom CBS affiliate WTOL/11 in Toledo.

Is this brief note scribbled to a frustrated viewer by a Fox 8 staffer a sign that WJW could well land back on UHF RF channel 31 soon - a move that most local digital OTA viewers would likely welcome?

Well, the North Carolina and Utah moves may be an indication that Local TV does see this as a solution for the VHF DTV problem. We don't know if other moves are possible here.

We also don't know if there would be any technical problems if WJW wished to return to UHF 31.

It would seem to be a pretty uncrowded channel, judging from what we've been reading on Mr. Ericson's own site.

But we don't know if CityTV in Toronto would put up new objections to a permanent or even temporary WJW return to 31...CityTV operates analog channel 31 in southern Ontario, not terribly far from London, as a repeater for the Toronto signal.

Though the station can be seen in Erie PA, we're told, we don't believe analog 31 ever made it - even before WJW-DT lit up pre-transition 31 - into the Cleveland market. We don't think this is a similar situation to the CFPL/10 interference to WOIO's anemic VHF RF 10 digital signal...

Monday, June 29, 2009

We Give Up On WJW, WOIO Signals

OK, we've ranted enough.

And just like with our earlier ranting about the afternoon drive talk programming on a certain major Cleveland market AM radio station, we've realized that ranting and raving about it here isn't going to change the situation.

Apparently, the hobbled VHF digital over-air signals of Cleveland market Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 and Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19 are not getting any better in the near term.

We have what we have.

WOIO never showed up on literally thousands of local digital TV over-air watchers' tuners the very moment the station decided to set down upon - and eventually, stay on - RF channel 10.

Yes, the very same channel occupied to this day and beyond by Canadian powerhouse CFPL/10...which appeared directly on many TV sets in the Cleveland TV market before WOIO-DT lit up. The open waters of Lake Erie are a powerful signal conveyor.

Though WOIO is pushing for a power hike to 10.3 kW, it appears to be hobbled even out of the gate, and will still have to consider CFPL's Not Going Anywhere Presence on the other side of that certain lake.

And we mean "Not Going Anywhere", because CFPL filed to stay on channel 10 in digital form, whenever Canada has its own analog shutoff (currently scheduled for 2011).

Any WOIO facility upgrade would be severely limited to the north of Parma because of this. And you know, places like Cleveland, Westlake, Mentor and the like are all north of Parma. And the power upgrade application in the hopper for WOIO is actually 1.3 kW less powerful than WJW's current setup (11.6 kW, as we reported earlier).

WJW, if you believe the FCC records, has a CP modification that would allow it 30 kW of power.

Not only do we have no indication that it's in the works, we have heard the same rumblings other people have heard - that WJW has no intent on actually building it out...that the CP is sitting there unbuilt to protect the station's signal options in the future.

That doesn't make a lot of sense to us, for reasons we've stated here before. We don't put much stock in the rumblings.

And even if the 30 kW permit is built out, OMW reader Trip Ericson in Virginia, who runs the popular RabbitEars TV information site, has mentioned in comments posted here that the proposed facility is highly directional north into Lake Erie...and doesn't believe it'll help a lot of the complaints we've seen south of Parma.

The bottom line - no amount of us complaining about it here, will make any signal upgrade come faster...so, unless news comes forth that either station has decided on - or implemented - a solution, we'll declare the case closed, and go to our cable-connected sets if we wish to watch programming on "Fox 8" or "Cleveland's CBS 19".

The damage these two stations receive from losing a portion of OTA viewers may or may not be a large concern to them, due to the 90% cable and satellite penetration in the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) TV market we reported earlier.

But before we close our books on WJW and WOIO's signal problems, here's a link to an excellent article on Why VHF Isn't What It Used To Be, from the TV trade site TVNewsday. It's from the site's founder, Harry Jessell, and it's called "VHF: Now Everything You Know Is Wrong".

These two snippets sum up the case against digital VHF signals in today's world. In the article, Jessell noted that when he was a kid, his mother vacuuming disrupted VHF analog signals:

It turns out the vacuuming problem has a technical name: impulse noise. It does terrible things to VHF signals and the TV pictures they produce and comes not just from vacuums, but from other electrical appliances with motors, florescent lights, power lines, radios — the whole shebang of man-made interference.

The impulse noise is all around us and probably much worse today than it was 40 or 45 years ago when I was dead serious about my TV viewing.


VHF stations have other problems that attenuate what power they do have. Because of the long wavelengths of VHF signals, they have trouble penetrating homes and apartment buildings. What's more, many committed over-the-air viewers were sold UHF-only TV antennas or all-band antennas with small, lousy VHF elements.

It all explains why viewers are calling hotlines wondering what happened to their favorite stations and why broadcasters are looking for solutions.

Things going as they do for your Primary Editorial Voice(tm), we'll probably learn later today or tomorrow that progress has been made on either station's signal situation. If that happens, we'll post it here.

And if so, you can thank us in advance, even if our role in the timing is only by accident...

Monday, June 22, 2009

The VHF DTV Struggle

Here we are, now over a week out from the June 12th digital TV transition, and stations which "transitioned" to a VHF frequency for their permanent digital channels are still getting a lot of flack.

Broadcasting & Cable has a pretty decent summary of the problems in an article on the trade website today:

Some of the problems with VHF reception are simply due to consumers not having the correct antenna; many antennas marketed as “HDTV-ready” are UHF-only. And the double-rescan procedure recommended last week by the FCC has solved the issue for some viewers in New York and Chicago.

But in many cases, the reception problems are more severe in close proximity to the transmitter than farther away. That suggests the problem is less one of signal coverage than of signal penetration into urban dwellings such as apartment buildings, where many viewers rely on simple indoor antennas.

That would mirror what we've heard here in Northeast Ohio.

Some of the loudest complaints about reception on WJW's new digital channel 8 facility are coming from inner ring Cleveland and Akron suburbs, like Shaker Heights and University Heights, or like our own location somewhere in northern or western Summit County.

In all three locations, WJW's UHF 31 pre-transition facility pegged the signal meter on digital tuners or converter boxes.

Here at OMW World Headquarters, a tiny wire hooked to our Zenith converter box could pick up WJW before the transition...now, we've had to assume the "Fox Viewing Position" made famous on the network's early iconic sitcom "Married...with Children". (And at that time, WJW wasn't a Fox affiliate!)

Again, like most viewers within 15-20 miles of the Parma antenna farm, we do not have a rooftop or attic antenna.

For the record, we THINK we've found an indoor antenna placement here that has brought us the strongest possible WJW signal, with few or no dropouts. But we're not altogether sure that'll hold up under different atmospheric conditions.

On the other hand, this article by Cleveland Plain Dealer business writer Shaheen Samavati last week - which talks about the difficulties receiving WJW and Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19 digitally - had an interesting note:

Ben Rzepka of University Heights uses a high-powered rooftop antenna that pulls in all Cleveland market stations perfectly - except WOIO. He says he watches programs on the Toledo CBS affiliate, WTOL Channel 11, instead.

"It can't be my system or my antenna," he said. "If I'm getting Toledo stations, it's got to be WOIO that has some kind of problem."

Two oddities in that section of the article.

First, WTOL itself is a VHF digital allocation on its former analog channel, 11. Different band and atmospheric conditions have been bringing in stations as far away as Detroit for Northeast Ohio digital TV viewers.

We know one OMW reader in northern Summit County who says his digital tuner gets at least a brief scan of Detroit CBS O&O WWJ/62 (if not a watchable picture), but that the same tuner can't get WOIO's signal - even though he can actually see tower lights from the Parma antenna farm across the Cuyahoga Valley.

But the University Heights man (with a rooftop antenna!) quoted above stumbles on the other side of the VHF DTV phenomenon...while people relatively close to the transmitter in urban areas are struggling with those stations, the "carrying power" of VHF can the stations' signals far beyond the market, in the right conditions.

It reminds us of the problem Akron market Clear Channel hot AC WKDD/98.1 had when it first camped out on that frequency in the "Great Frequency Swap of 2001"...98.1 was touted as a powerful signal, but it couldn't penetrate buildings in the core of downtown Akron.

Our friends in the TV engineering community will rail against indoor antennas.

But in core urban areas, putting up a rooftop antenna is just not a viable option...for viewers who don't have such problems with higher-powered UHF installations like, oh, say, the new RF 17 allocation for WKYC/3. Or WJW's own pre-transition RF 31.

Why should someone in a core suburb have to put up an outdoor antenna (and pay for it, to boot) when only two stations are a problem without one? If you're going to pay for something to watch TV, why not a cable or satellite subscription?

And as such, we are cautious about over-stating this.

If these figures from the Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) are correct, the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) TV market enjoys 90% cable and satellite penetration as of this past February. ("ADS" in the chart would basically be satellite, or other non-cable distribution methods.)

That means all but 10% of this TV market's viewers are blissfully unaware of the difficulty picking up the market's two VHF DTV outlets, WJW and WOIO. And of that 10%, there are thousands who do NOT have problems with the local Fox and CBS affiliates' new digital signals.

For those with problems with the VHF side of digital TV, what's next?

Let's bring in our long-time friend, colleague and World Champion Tower Hunter Scott Fybush, from this week's edition of NorthEast Radio Watch:

In the long run, though, it appears the FCC may be right back where it was in, say, 1950: coming to terms with the reality that the state of the art in receiver and antenna design probably requires significantly more power than was originally thought necessary.

That, too, may be an expensive solution for some stations that had already built what were to be their "permanent" VHF digital facilities - though the good news is that most of the stations moving back to their VHF analog allocations have plenty of headroom in their antennas and transmission systems for more power, and often have extra transmitter power to spare, too, if they've converted recent analog transmitters to digital use.

That would certainly appear to apply to WJW, locally.

In fact, if the FCC filings the local Fox affiliate have made are to be believed (or are being read properly), the station is in the process of doing just that: converting its former analog transmitter to digital.

WJW's analog allocation had the station putting out an ERP of 236 kW. We haven't heard any progress on the supposed conversion, if it's taking place, but we'll guess that WJW will build it out at 30 kW and see what happens from there.

WOIO? We've given up on them. The 10.3 kW that the local CBS affiliate is trying to rangle out of its FCC application - reportedly tied up with Canadian coordination with London ON co-channel analog CFPL/10 - is probably not going to help the station very much. And as WOIO's Jim Stunek has told the Plain Dealer's Shaheen Samavati, it's a "time-consuming process".

If you want to watch "19 Action News", and can't see it on your digital OTA tuner, call Time Warner Cable, WOW Cable, Cox Cable or your local cable company, or DirecTV or Dish Network.

Meanwhile, in Toledo, we hear that ABC O&O WTVG/13 is openly talking about the station's own problems with its 11.2 kW allocation on RF 13.

An OMW reader tells us that "13abc" discussed the problem, with the help of several engineers, on the Sunday public affairs program "Conklin and Company". That's no surprise, since ABC itself has been the loudest voice reacting to this whole mess.

We're told that it was learned that WTVG is waiting for an FCC engineer to study the new signal, before trying to get a power increase.

And we hear that WTVG's chief engineer said what Scott Fybush also said in his NorthEast Radio Watch, which we quoted above: that "they took us back to the 1950's power levels where people HAD to have an outdoor antenna"...

A View From The Inside

(This is a reprint of part of an item which appears on our main site, Ohio Media Watch, this morning:)

OMW, and our sister site in the OMW Blog Network, Ohio Digital TV, chronicled the building of the new WKYC/WVIZ tower and digital TV facility on Broadview Road in Parma quite frequently.

Since we were basically taking pictures from the outside, we were left to a lot of speculation about what was going on inside, and when the facility would be completed.

We have all the answers...after the fact, of course.

Dave Kushman, one of WKYC's engineers on the project, brings us the pictures we all imagined before the June 12th transition...with his site hosting an in-depth look at the work inside and outside the site that now houses WKYC's digital channel 17 and WVIZ's digital channel 26.

We'll have to go back and see if some of our speculation was on target, or, well, off target.

The hat tip here is to our blogging colleague over at WKYC, senior director Frank Macek and his "Director's Cut" blog.

And we're wondering if Dave put up the site, in part, because of all the interest in the new WKYC/WVIZ site among our readers...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sorting Through The WJW Mess

Yes, we were a bit harsh in yesterday's item, explaining the "lack of power" out of Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8's new digital transmitter...which was believed to be running at 30 kW, but is actually only putting out 11 kW, based on our research of FCC filings.

Here at your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), we're not technical experts in such things as TV transmission systems...so, we got some help - both solicited and otherwise - by Those Who Know What They're Doing.

One of those people is long-time friend, colleague and World Champion Tower Hunter Scott Fybush of NorthEast Radio Watch.

For one, no matter which setup WJW ends up putting on the air, Scott tells us that it's important to note that VHF DTV has caused many more problems than expected...and not just in Cleveland:

High-band VHF DTV appears to be having reception issues all over the country - certainly at WCPO (in Cincinnati), and at WHDH in Boston, and WTNH in New Haven, and to some extent at WHEC and WHAM here (at NERW home base in Rochester, NY).

And, of course, right here in OMW-land at WTOL and WTVG in Toledo.

Scott tells us that one of those stations has already implemented a temporary solution, which might be advisable for WJW to emulate here:

WHDH has reactivated its DTV 42 transmitter under Special Temporary Authority.

WHDH explains that move here.

Could that give WJW an idea - to reactivate its own RF 31 digital transmitter to temporarily "fill in the gaps"? We understand WHDH/7 has both transmitters going now, which apparently puts two "7-1"'s (and -2s) on digital tuners that have rescanned. Two is better than one, we presume, if your tuner or converter box can handle the confusion...and it'll be obvious which one is the resurrected former signal.

(Plus, and this is a bonus WJW may want to consider, it would put "8-1" on tuners twice for those who get a scan on the digital 8 signal!)

It's either that, or WJW could continue to send reporters to digital TV homes with trouble picking up digital channel 8, and task those reporters with carrying indoor antennas around the room to find the best signal, and quickly going back to the studio while the reporter swaps out to a new antenna. Not like that would ever happen...with the viewer puzzled about why he has to walk around a room with an antenna in his hand while watching TV.

Just how much improvement would a 30 kW digital channel 8 upgrade bring to local viewers?

Trip Ericson is a very bright, young Virginia-based college student who created the RabbitEars website - chock full of technical information about every TV market and station in America.

Trip writes in the comments to our last item:

The 30 kW permit calls for a directional pattern. Most of the power goes out over the Lake, and thus the future power boost is negligible to most viewers on dry land.

What I'm trying to say is don't count on it to do you any favors, unless the current antenna has uneven gain across the channel 8 spectrum...

Trip, by the way, is also an engineering intern at Roanoke VA CBS affiliate WDBJ/7, and at some point, will be running the broadcast world. We're sure of it. And he's not even 21 years old now.

An OMW reader named "Pat" tries to do some further reading of the WJW construction permits:

From the FCC records, it appear that their temporary transmitter puts out 1.07KW so they are using a high gain antenna to get to 11KW. Their regular transmitter puts out 32KW so a much lower gain antenna will be used. The lower gain antenna will put more signal in close to their transmitter site. It is possible those out closer to the horizon aren't seeing the same level of issue you see. 30KW ERP will make a different, but the higher power transmitter will a lower gain antenna may help even more. (By the way, I have no broadcast experience, so I may be wrong).

So be it, Pat...we have no TV engineering experience, as well.

We don't presume for a moment that the 30 kW upgrade will solve all problems for WJW, and the station's current situation at very least is not as bad as a certain CBS affiliate at downtown Cleveland's Reserve Square.

But maybe even a "negligible" increase can smooth out some of the reception issues in areas not that far away from Parma. At the OMW World Headquarters, some 20 air miles from the WJW transmitter site, we have been able to get a regular lock on the digital channel 8 signal, but...it's on the edge, and we get occasional audio dropouts. The same antenna setups get us WOIO/19's digital channel 10 only when the atmosphere cooperates.

WJW, meanwhile, is not battling a massive on-channel analog signal across Lake Erie like WOIO is. But that directional pattern Trip mentions may be in place for WJW because of two adjacent signals to the south - WTRF/7 Wheeling and WTOV/9 Steubenville, which have both flash cut to digital.

When it comes to WJW, we expected problems on the fringes of the market...but we didn't expect weak reception within 20 miles of Parma. We have to believe the 30 kW facility will help at least a little in the core of the market, even with the directional issues.

But the current situation may mean that 30 kW won't be the top power level for VHF DTV stations in the future.

Oddly enough, the current VHF DTV reception situation is nothing new, as Scott Fybush tells us:

It also bears noting that this is EXACTLY the same situation as happened with the early years of analog TV, both VHF and UHF - the FCC initially thought stations could get by with much lower power levels than were eventually authorized.

Stations like ABC O&O's WLS/7 Chicago and WPVI/6 Philadelphia are feeling the pain, and are pressing the FCC for greater power allocations on their own VHF DTV channels.

Though it now appears that a 3-million viewer drop for the network's "World News Tonight" on Friday may not be attributed to a loss of digital viewers, but rather, a loss of counting them (per this Associated Press article), the network does appear very sensitive to the issues.

Local stations like WJW and WOIO do not appear to have the same sense of urgency as ABC, or as Sunbeam Television's WHDH in Boston...or if they do, we'd at least like to know about it...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

WJW Power Mystery Solved?

The biggest post-DTV transition story in Northeast Ohio is the surprisingly anemic performance of WJW/8 "Fox 8"'s new signal on VHF channel 8, its old analog channel.

As it turns out, the signal may be less powerful than pretty much everyone thought, including us, and WJW's digital channel 8 appears to be operating not at the approved post-transition power level of 30 kW, but at 11 kW instead.

Yes, you read that right.

It took us about a half-hour going through WJW's FCC application records, but we're pretty confident we've figured that out. Follow along with us, to see if we've reached the proper conclusion. As always, especially in engineering matters - with only FCC records to work from - we could be wrong.

The key that unlocked this mystery for us was the station's "License to Cover", which tells the FCC that WJW is indeed operating "pursuant to automatic program test authority" on its construction permit for digital channel 8. That was filed Monday, so it's information we didn't have before now.

It appears that the "license to cover" filed Monday, however, was to cover the original 11 kW construction permit granted in March, 2008 (file number 20080311AAN)...not the construction permit modification to increase to 30 kW, which was granted in June, 2008 (20080620AHI).

We've previously referenced this line from the station's April transition update (caution: FCC filing form all upper case ahead):


From our digging into this, it now appears to us that "fully-authorized power" refers to the 11 kW CP granted in March of last year, not the 30 kW CP modification granted a few months later.

The problem?

We're not hearing ANYTHING from either inside South Marginal, or from the station in public, that the 30 kW facility is coming any time soon...despite its appoval one year ago.

You'd figure that if this was the case, WJW would trumpet it loudly. But word that a facility improvement is in the works isn't found anywhere we can see on the Fox 8 website.

The latest word on DTV on Fox8.com is in this article promising "New DTV info" for viewers, which basically amounts to a procedure meant to "unstick" the previous WJW-DT facility on digital 31 from converters boxes and tuners. That does indeed happen, depending on the tuner, and it looks to be a solid procedure to clear out the converter box's memory.

But...the web article contains nothing about a power increase.

If WJW has talked about it on "Fox 8 News" or anywhere, we haven't seen it. There are just 24 hours in a day, and we can't watch every single local newscast.

The problems receiving WJW have made both major local newspapers, and have been talked about extensively right here on the OMW Blog Network. (Hey, that's a pretty good name for the OMW and ODTV combo...too bad we didn't think about it back in April!)

Again, if WJW was in the process of upgrading, and putting its modified construction permit on the air, one would think they'd say something about it...if only to give viewers who've lost the station over the air, some even in Cuyahoga and Summit counties, some hope for the near future.

As such, we can't even speculate that the situation will change soon...though on FCC paper, it looks like the path is still there.

The 30 kW CP MOD, as it's called, specifies a June 12, 2009 expiration date...but we don't think that means anything for such facilities. It clearly shows up a "post-transition" permit, which is why we think the date is automatic and doesn't mean anything. We could be wrong.

Anyway, if anyone at South Marginal is reading this, that's a hint.

You may or may not like us, but if we're wrong, you have to set us straight...and more importantly, notify your lost viewers that an increase in power should help bring back reliable reception for areas in your primary coverage area that can't receive Fox 8 over the air. Your obligation is to them, not us.

And as for those viewers, you have an obligation, too.

You need to call WJW, and tell them you can't receive their signal, even in a traditionally strong signal area. You need to complain, and make your voice heard. When you can't pick up a station, even in areas as close as Shaker Heights (in Cuyahoga County, at last check), the converter box does not notify the station.

Be prepared for the "you don't have the right antenna" speech, and at least have a modest indoor VHF/UHF combo antenna in place.

Tell them that you're a 10 minute drive down I-480 from Parma, and that you should reasonably expect not to have to mount a roof antenna up there on your home for a station that you could pick up with a paperclip back when it was on digital RF channel 31.

And yes, tell them you've read that they are not operating with their maximized FCC power of 30 kW, and ask them why not.

Or, do nothing, and hope that the folks at Local TV get the message when WJW starts losing ratings points compared to stronger local competitors.

OK, so that last one is a bit of hyperbole, as the Cleveland market has about 80%-ish cable/satellite penetration. Those folks (we're certainly in that 80%) have not lost WJW or any other over-air local station.

But anyone who watches the local TV ratings wars knows that WJW, WKYC, WOIO and WEWS fight like junkyard dogs over slim ratings margins. Even if the DTV over-air only audience in Northeast Ohio is only about 20 percent, every viewer counts.

We repeat, if a power increase is coming for their over-air signal, WJW needs to tell viewers, now.

Our only "ray of hope" on this is that the 30 kW increase would happen sooner rather than later, and WJW is just hoping that viewers will keep rescanning their converter boxes or tuners, find it, and be happy. But if viewers couldn't pick up the new signal to begin with, it won't magically appear when the power increases.

If we're wrong, we need to be corrected. But we have reason to believe that even outside the FCC records we've cited, we are correct about the 11 kW power level that WJW is currently using on digital channel 8...

Monday, June 15, 2009

ODTV Followup Monday

We're sorting out what's left after Friday's end of full-power analog TV service, and even correcting ourselves once or twice...

ANALOG EXIT: We noted earlier that Cleveland stations didn't do much going into the end of the analog TV era, with almost no fanfare accompanying the "big digital switch" at 10 AM last Friday.

As it turns out, Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 "Fox 8" did SOMETHING at the switch, with a brief, live segment after the syndicated "Morning Show with Mike and Juliet".

The station transferred to a live shot at the WJW transmitter facility in the Parma antenna farm, where morning anchor/reporter Todd Meany did a couple of minutes of DTV education with transmitter supervisor Jim Snell before Snell "pushed the big button" live on the air.

We missed all of this, but thanks to YouTube, we can see it as it happened on the air on Friday.

The most complete of the videos, seen below, showed the switch as it appeared on analog channel 8, then on pre-transition channel 31, then a rescan to bring back digital channel 8:

The anonymous YouTube uploader apparently has a decent antenna setup, as the rescan shows them picking up WKBN-DT out of Youngstown (RF 41).

Another video shows things from the cable perspective. We're guessing by the "DuckRadioLCCC" YouTube login that it was provided by long-time OMW reader and contributor Nathan Obral.

And a third video shows a video camera trained on a TV tuned to analog channel 8 at the transition, then the TV being tuned to WKYC/3's analog "nightlight" DTV information signal...

ABOUT DIGITAL VHF: WJW had the most complex DTV transition in the Cleveland market.

As described above, the local Fox affiliate had to dump both analog channel 8 and pre-transition digital channel 31, and bring up new digital channel 8. It was the only station in the Cleveland market making that three step switch, as ION O&O WVPX/23 did a simple flash cut...having no pre-transition digital signal to shut off.

And when WJW turned channel 8 from analog to digital, a lot of people were surprised to see it go away on their digital sets or converter boxes. (Though it stayed on cable and satellite for the most part, WJW's new signal took a little more time to show up on Dish Network. We experienced no major problems with dropped channels on Time Warner Cable's Cleveland-based system.)

WJW and its viewers are finding out what stations in some other markets are finding out - digital VHF, even high-band (7-13) channels, doesn't mix well with indoor antennas.

Back in the day when VHF ruled the analog land, so did rooftop, outdoor antennas. If you wanted to get a decent signal on channel 3, 5 or 8, you put up something on the roof.

After cable (and later, satellite) penetration increased, many either took down those rooftop antennas, or they fell into disrepair after decades of neglect.

The simple fact is this - generally speaking, some distance from the transmitters, an indoor antenna is a poor choice to pick up VHF signals. And with digital TV, you "either get the signal or you don't"...you can't slide along with a snowy but semi-watchable picture, since that doesn't exist in Digital TV Land.

Our long-time friend, colleague and World Champion Tower Hunter Scott Fybush mentions the subject in today's NorthEast Radio Watch update:

Around the region, those VHF digital signals - many of them taking the air for the first time on Friday or early Saturday - proved a little more troublesome than expected, especially for viewers unfamiliar with the different antennas needed for VHF reception as opposed to the UHF band, where most existing DTV had been located.

Among the "troublesome" spots - ABC is a key player, having problems with VHF digital at its WPVI/6 in Philadelphia, and WLS/7 in Chicago.

The problems are so pronounced, that Broadcasting & Cable's John Eggerton reports that ABC will be "working with the FCC" to help solve them. Quoting:

"We always believed that we were given an insufficient power allocation, and we will work closely with the FCC to aleviate the situation," said WLS-TV President and General Manager Emily Barr. Julie Hoover, a spokeswoman for the ABC station group, said the situation is the same in Philadelphia.

WLS's current digital power allocation on digital channel 7 is just 4.75 kW. Or, roughly 1.25 kW more powerful than Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19's allocation on digital channel 10. (And we're willing to bet that WLS doesn't have a co-channel full-power analog station bearing down on it across a lake.)

The difference here? A) Chicago and Philadelphia are larger markets than Cleveland, and B) the ABC affiliates in question are owned by their network. Yes, someone really needs to bug CBS about Cleveland. Really.

One of WPVI's biggest hurdles is that it's one of a few dozen stations nationwide that chose to stay in the interference-plagued low-VHF band (its old analog channel 6). Though so far, at least one station, Albany-market CBS affiliate WRGB/6, isn't experiencing major problems. Philadelphia is one of the more spread-out markets in the Northeast, however.

Back to Ohio, where at least WJW admits that the VHF switch could be causing some problems, in articles by Akron Beacon Journal pop culture writer Rich Heldenfels and Cleveland Plain Dealer business writer Shaheen Samavati.

(And yes, we know Rich doesn't really like writing about all this, as he mentioned in a recent >"Heldenfiles" blog. Rich is an admitted OMW reader, so we hope we've been able to at very least steer him in the right direction.)

What we don't know? We're just assuming WJW is using its latest construction permit, which calls for 30 kW of power on digital channel 8. If the station is using its 18 kW auxiliary facility, we have no way of finding out...

VHF ELSEWHERE: Toledo actually has three digital TV facilities on VHF now.

Raycom CBS affiliate WTOL/11 and ABC O&O WTVG/13 both successfully "flash cut" their digital facilities onto their old analog channels early Friday, and join religious rimshot WLMB/40, which remains on digital channel 5 (yipes!).

We call WLMB a "rimshot" for good reason.

Its transmitter is northwest of Toledo in southeast Michigan, and that location was presumably dictated by the former analog allocation of Cleveland's WEWS/5.

We're told, and know from previous personal experience, that WLMB's digital allocation is very difficult to receive in Toledo, and the absence of WEWS's booming analog signal has apparently not made that pickup any easier.

But OMW hears that both WTOL and WTVG, the market leaders in Toledo, basically were "slammed" with calls to their help desk...many having problems picking up the VHF-based digital signals. (We'll presume the antenna and converter box rescan issues were foremost.)

We're told that "13 abc" actually reported some 600 phone calls through the entire day on Friday, and told viewers they'd gotten permission to "slightly" increase power.

Looking through WTVG's FCC technical applications, it appears we've uncovered the story... WTVG is apparently operating under a construction permit for 11.2 kW of power on digital channel 13. That's the permit on which the station filed a "license to cover" today.

The application to increase to 14.6 kW was approved in May. And quoting the station from that now-approved CP:


For background, WTVG was one of the stations that was required by the FCC to notify viewers of a loss of coverage area - over 2 percent - and listed a handful of counties in Southeast Michigan and Northern Ohio that could partially lose coverage.

On this side of Toledo, Erie and Huron were the counties involved, which are on the western fringe of the Cleveland market...the Michigan counties, we believe, are in the Detroit market.

The station told viewers that the "slight increase" of 15% in power may not help those in those outlying areas - which again, are basically not technically in the Toledo market.

Read more about WTVG's post-transition problems at the station's website, including comments from viewers who can't get the station anymore. (And sorry, northeast Sandusky County, you're not going to get WTVG's digital signal with a modest set of rabbit ears...even after the 14.6 kW upgrade...)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cleveland Digital TV Transition Awards

Welcome, to our first Cleveland Digital TV Transition Awards!

Here are our own "winners and losers" from the day analog, full-power TV went away in Ohio's largest TV market, and our primary coverage area:

MOST IMPROVED: A tie between two occupants of that new antenna tower on Broadview Road in Parma, WKYC-DT (RF 17) and WVIZ-DT (RF 26).

You could make a case for either to be the ultimate winner, but it's basically a tie due to their cooperative work and co-location.

With the new facility replacing its former interference-plagued RF 2 facility, WKYC-DT went from the outhouse to the penthouse as far as TV signal strength is concerned. Digital over-air tuners across Northeast Ohio welcomed Cleveland's NBC affiliate...for many, its first appearance.

We'll give a slight nod to WKYC over WVIZ for one reason: WKYC-DT now appears to be the most powerful digital signal in the Cleveland market, or at very least on par with WEWS-DT (RF 15). With an indoor, non-amplified antenna here at the OMW World Headquarters somewhere in northern or western Summit County, you have to work pretty hard to lose the new WKYC digital signal.

WVIZ-DT's new signal is a little lower here, signal wise, but more than enough for an easy "lock". It's pretty much troublefree from our indoor antenna-equipped installations, a far cry from its former temporary status running anywhere from 1 kW to 10 kW from places like the small tower behind the former WVIZ studios to an auxiliary tower on the WKYC property.

We realize that YMMV - "Your Mileage May Vary". Our Friday night comments included one from a Wayne County resident upset that he couldn't get WKYC-DT to watch the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. We'll assume that comparison is to the analog WKYC, vs. the anemic WKYC-DT which until recently occupied RF channel 2.

Honorable Mention; WVPX-DT 23 (ION), which puts a respectable signal out on its new digital channel 23...after years with no digital signal whatsoever.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: That'd pretty much have to be Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8, which mounted its digital RF channel 8 in a flash cut on Friday.

Viewers responded in numbers: "Bring back RF 31! Please!"

"Fox 8" is not in as bad a situation as the Cleveland market's perennial digital TV laggard, WOIO-DT (RF 10).

Close-in viewers in Cuyahoga and northern Summit Counties should still be able to pick up the new WJW-DT VHF signal with a VHF antenna of some sort, and decent antenna placement. (We found that spot here at the OMW World Headquarters, about 20 air miles from Parma.)

But the move turns WJW-DT into one of our weakest stations, and we're not alone. Our E-mail tells us that some folks as close as Shaker Heights lost WJW-DT with the change on Friday.

We also don't know if WJW is running the full 30 kW post-transition power on RF 8. The station had indicated that it acquired a temporary transmitter at that full power level, while it retrofits the now-former analog 8 transmitter to digital, so maybe things will improve...

ARE THEY REALLY TRANSMITTING?: For many, picking up WOIO-DT's 3.5 kW RF 10 signal has been a challenge, and that didn't change a bit on Friday...the station is, as far as we know, still using that facility at the moment.

WOIO has two answers to questions about this untenable situation:

1) "We applied for a power increase." Well, they did, from 3.5 kW to 10.3 kW, but it's being held up by Canadian coordination issues.

You think? Really? Wow, what a surprise! Gee, we wonder why?

Considering that London ONT powerhouse CFPL is also sitting on 10 (analog right now, they'll keep 10 for digital whenever that happens), what were Raycom corporate engineers thinking by insisting on a RF 10 digital facility for WOIO? What were they smoking?

Didn't they realize that before their digital facility first tuned up, in-market viewers along Lake Erie were able to watch CFPL *IN THE CLEVELAND MARKET* with little difficulty? Didn't they know that CFPL was so strong in eastern Cuyahoga County, it was carried on local cable in that part of the area?

Someone has to tell CBS about this.

WOIO is losing in-market viewers in places like Stark County and Portage County to Youngstown's CBS affiliate digital powerhouse, WKBN/27 (RF 41). Those viewers may have no interest in "27 First News", but CSI looks the same on WKBN as it does on WOIO. (For that matter, WJW may face the same problem in those areas, with the WKBN-DT signal also carrying an HD version of "Fox Youngstown".)

While the over-air only percentage of the Cleveland market's viewership is only a certain amount (roughly 20%, we believe, with nearly 80% cable/satellie penetration here), WOIO is left to hold its breath and hope cable and satellite carry the day.

2) 'An outdoor antenna will help". Sure, it will. It pretty much always does.

But how many people have rooftop antennas anymore, and when is telling viewers they have to spend $50-100 or more ever a good idea for a TV station? Particularly when their existing or cheap "rabbit ears" and/or UHF loop antennas pick up all the other stations without going outside?

The insistence on keeping WOIO-DT on RF channel 10 - with a strong Canadian station pushing across the open waters of Lake Erie - may be the stupidest engineering decision ever made by a major market, network affiliate station. And we are being quite kind.

Amd we doubt the proposed 10.3 kW upgrade will not make matters all that much better...

BOOBY PRIZE: To nearly all local TV stations in the Cleveland market, for not doing much to mark the analog shutoff.

We didn't see it, but we're told that Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 was the only station that did ANYTHING...breaking away on analog 5 to run a short feature on the ending analog transmission...right before analog 5 went away after 62 years (!) of serving Northeast Ohio viewers. 62 years...gone like "that".

WKYC/3 has a regularly scheduled local program at 10 AM, "Good Company Today"...but there wasn't much interesting talk about the end of analog TV, just a brief talk with a station "expert" on a show that's basically an hour-long series of live infomercials.

It was as if all the stations threw up their hands, and said, "we're sick of this, just push the button and move on"...

AND THE "IF YOU CAN'T SEE ME" AWARD: ...goes to, as far as we can tell, all four local TV news operations.

Reporters covering the "DTV Switch" for noon newscasts pretty much all stated that "if you can't see or hear us", viewers needed to call certain numbers to get help.

Well, if you can't see or hear TV, you probably can't see or hear the TV reporter telling you to get help, but that's just a guess...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Almost Done

At this writing, the end of full-power analog TV in Northeast Ohio is nearly complete.

Only the analog signals of WKYC/3 (NBC), WVIZ/25 (PBS), WNEO/49 (PBS) and WQHS/61 (Univision) remain, and the last three will be gone before midnight tonight. WKYC's "nightlight" DTV information loop will continue through June 26th...the station having taken all entertainment and news programming off of analog 3 at 10 AM.

Over in the Mahoning Valley, only the analog signal of WFMJ/21 (NBC) is still on the air late this Friday night. It plans to pull the analog plug at just before midnight tonight, and will have to do so even if the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings take over four hours to finish Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

By the way, OMW hears from our friends at Western Reserve PBS that though Youngstown low-power analog fill-in translator W58AM (Channel 58) is indeed still off the air, the Kent-based PBS operation is planning to return the Youngstown fill-in service via digital channel 44 (58's replacement, W44CR) in the fall of this year.

We'll have a post-mortem and commentary over the weekend, and more information about other Ohio markets (particularly Toledo and Columbus) as it becomes available to us...

Cleveland Switch: First Impression

The first wave of analog shutoffs in the Cleveland/Akron TV market happened, as planned, at 10 AM this morning.

And here at the OMW World Headquarters somewhere in western or northern Summit County, it's mostly good. Mostly.

Analog signals for the following stations are no longer broadcasting: WEWS/5 (ABC), WJW/8 (Fox), WOIO/19 (CBS), WVPX/23 (ION), WUAB/43 (MyNetwork TV) and WBNX/55 (CW).

WKYC/3 analog (NBC) is airing the expected DTV information-only "nightlight" video loop, with video and text containing both English-language and Spanish-language instructions. That comes from the National Association of Broadcasters, and WKYC's analog channel 3 will continue to air it through Juen 26th.

WVIZ/25 analog (PBS) is airing a one-day-only slide explaining the switch. Analog 25 won't be continuing with this slide after it signs off later today.

WEAO/49 analog (PBS) has regular programming, which will go away when it signs off at 11:59 PM tonight.

WQHS/61 analog (Univision) is airing regular programming, which will go away when it signs off later tonight.

Low-power stations, such as Media-Com's WAOH-LP 29 Akron/W35AX Cleveland, are unaffected and are broadcasting as usual.

This update is up a little later than we'd planned. For one, we've been spending much of the past half-hour trying to get indoor antenna placement that'll pick up the new RF 8 signal of WJW/8 on the VHF band.

We finally gained success with an unamplified, modest indoor antenna spread out into a "V" in a second floor window. Well, mostly success, as it breaks up very infrequently, but is mostly locked.

The WJW move turns it into our second hardest-to-get OTA signal here - WOIO/19's RF 10 facility is by far still the worst. We admit that the antenna situation here at the OMW World Headquarters is indoor-only, and we still need to do some adjusting.

But it's odd coming from the pre-transition world, where we nearly needed a court order to get the signal of WKYC-DT on RF 2, to getting the WKYC-DT signal on RF 17 in our teeth...and struggling to get a decent lock on WJW-DT...which used to be in that "in our teeth" category on RF 31.

Elsewhere, Toledo has all but completed its switch, with NBC affiliate WNWO/24 the only station waiting until late tonight. (They're waiting for the NHL Stanley Cup Finals Game 7, involving the nearby Detroit Red Wings.) We'll have many more comments on VHF-based DTV later, as two Toledo stations made that switch.

And two of the three full-power Youngstown market commercial stations turn off analog just over an hour from now. The third, NBC affiliate WFMJ/21, is also waiting until just before midnight....maybe they're also waiting for the Stanley Cup Finals to end, with the nearby Pittsburgh Penguins being the other team in the series.

More on these situations, and other comments, later...


We've been saying it for a long time...Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 in Cleveland will keep analog channel 3 going an extra two weeks longer than any local station.

Instead of finding WKYC's local news or NBC's entertainment programming there, though, you'll find rather boring programming on the soon-to-be-former home of WKYC itself.

WKYC senior director and "Director's Cut" blogger Frank Macek has more:

The programming on this channel will only be DTV transition and EAS information in English and Spanish. In other words, if a viewer can see this channel 3 analog signal on their TV, they will see and hear a message that they have a problem.

Yes, that means if there's a severe weather warning, the analog WKYC will still carry it - through June 26th, when the "OFF" button is hit on the analog Channel 3 transmitter for good.

OMW has been reporting this information out of FCC filings, including an update as recently as March that WKYC indicated it would indeed be in the "nightlight" program...

Toledo Starts The End Of Analog TV

Since we're still up at this hour...

OMW readers in Toledo tell us that ABC O&O WTVG/13 "13abc" has become the first commercial station in that market to end the analog broadcasting era.

We hear that WTVG "pulled the analog switch" going into a commercial break on its late newscast, at just after 12:30 AM. Just under five minutes later, we hear the new digital signal on RF channel 13 made its debut.

The switch had been scheduled for about 12:07 AM, but WTVG's late news was pushed late due to overtime in the NBA Finals Game 4 between the Los Angeles Lakers and...oh, whatever that team was that knocked the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the playoffs.

As we noted earlier, it appears the 2:05 AM switch planned for Toledo NBC affiliate WNWO/24 "NBC24" is off, and the Barrington Broadcasting station will do its analog shutoff after Game 7 of the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs - featuring the nearby Detroit Red Wings.

We don't know hockey enough to know if the game's extra periods could extend past midnight, but it doesn't matter.

Even if the two teams are somehow still playing after 11:59 PM on Friday night (which we guess would be unlikely), both WNWO and Youngstown market NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 would be forced to dump their analog signals before midnight. There's no exemption in FCC rules for popular sporting events...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On The Night Before DTV

...there were some clarifications, some changes, and more testing...

(Bet you thought we were going for the "not even a mouse" line! Maybe closer to December...)

YOUNGSTOWN LINES UP: After waiting all week, we've finally learned what time all Youngstown market stations will turn off their analog signals.

We previously learned that Vindicator NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 would wait until 11:59 PM Friday night to shut off that venerable analog channel 21.

The other two commercial stations in Youngstown, CBS affiliate WKBN-TV/27 and ABC affiliate WYTV/33, are under the common control of New Vision Television, which owns WKBN-TV and runs WYTV under a shared services agreement we've talked about many times.

And thus, as expected, both stations will drop analog signals at the same time - 12:05 PM Friday.

From an announcement put up this afternoon on the WKBN-TV "27 First News" website, mirrored over on the WYTV side of the New Vision web house:

At five minutes past noon on Friday June 12, 2009, both WKBN-TV and WYTV-TV will turn off their analog transmitters.

It's pretty non-eventful in the Mahoning Valley, as all that needs to be done is turn off analog 21, analog 27 and analog 33. It's no less historic, of course, because all three analog stations have been serving Valley viewers for decades...no matter how good their digital replacements are.

The announcement is actually pretty straightforward in pointing out that WYTV's digital signal may cause viewers problems:

WYTV has a new transmitter installed which will dramatically increase its signal strength. As of now, we are awaiting government approval to finish the tower construction and turn it on to full power. If you are having difficulty receiving 33.1, 33.2 and 33.3 despite trying the tactics described above, the problem may be solved as soon as the new transmitter is finished.

The only "flash cut" in the Youngstown TV market has already been done. Western Reserve PBS Youngstown market station WNEO/45 Alliance did it back in November, and is already on the full-power maximized version of digital 45...

Those with only analog tuners in Youngstown, after 12:05 PM tomorrow, will see at least one network affiliate...as New Vision Fox affiliates WYFX-LP 62 Youngstown/WFXI-CA 17 Mercer PA are not affected by the transition, being low power stations.

At this point, though, viewers are more likely to pick up "Fox Youngstown" either on cable, or on the HD-equipped WKBN-DT/27.2 subchannel.

(We don't know if TBN's translator in the market will flip to digital yet, and as far as we know, Western Reserve PBS" Youngstown fill-in translator, W58AM, is still off the air in either format.)

TOLEDO CHANGES: If you were planning on watching the end of analog full-power TV in the Toledo market by staying up all night, you'll apparently get a nap.

Three of Toledo's full power stations have been planning to turn off analog signals in the overnight hours, from 12:07 AM for ABC O&O WTVG/13 to 4:25 AM for Raycom CBS affiliate WTOL/11.

Barrington NBC affiliate WNWO/24 was in that mix, and was scheduled to shut off analog 24 right in the middle of the other two stations' times- at 2:05 AM.

But OMW hears from a reader in the Toledo market that "NBC24" announced that it was putting off the early Friday switch until just before midnight Friday night, for one reason: concern that Detroit Red Wings fans would miss game 7 of the NHL's Stanley Cup Finals.

The series is being carried by NBC, of course, and in case you don't know, Toledo may as well be a suburb of Detroit for these purposes. (We wonder if that's why NBC's Youngstown market affiliate, WFMJ/21, has also announced a late Friday switch...we presume there are a lot of Pittsburgh Penguins fans in that market.)

WTOL and WTVG are the two stations in the Toledo market "flash cutting" digital on their old analog channels, and maybe they want some breathing room for calls by doing the actual switch in the post-midnight or early morning hours.

Last we heard, LIN Fox affiliate WUPW/36 will become the last full-power analog station in the Toledo market to go off the air, with a 10 AM shutoff planned. Analog only tuners will still get MyNetwork TV low-power affiliate WMNT-CA/48 after that.

And no, we have no idea what religious WLMB/40 is doing...

NO, JUST A TEST: The story is pretty much told in our Twitter updates, which appear on the main OMW blog to the left of the items themselves.

But in case you haven't seen - for a while, Western Reserve PBS' WEAO-DT 49.3 lit up this afternoon, carrying the "MHZ Worldview" programming the station announced earlier this week.

Not yet, say station officials...they were just testing 49.3, which will light up for good after midnight Friday night/Saturday morning.

At that time, 49.2 will shut off the SD simulcast of the main Western Reserve PBS channel, and will carry the national "Classic Arts Showcase" until the locally-programmed "Fusion" arts/culture channel launches later this summer.

We'll assume folks picking up WNEO-DT saw the same behavior on 45.3 today...


At this writing, the new WKYC-DT facility on RF channel 17 is lit up now, and is putting a strong signal into the digital tuners at the OMW World Headquarters, located next to Bruce Wayne's mansion somewhere in western or northern Summit County. (We get out of here via a bat cave, too, you know.)

We'd checked as recently as late morning, when a reader told us he'd been receiving the new WKYC-DT. We looked, didn't see a signal on RF 17, and did a rescan just to be sure...but now, it's up and running.

Just judging by the rudimentary signal level meters on our digital tuners and boxes, WKYC-DT is a "notch" stronger than the other occupant of that new tower we made famous on Broadview Road in Parma, WVIZ-DT/25 (RF 26). It's not that WVIZ-DT has any trouble locking in here, but WKYC-DT is a bit stronger (and given the power levels for each post-transition signal, that's not at all surprising).

A caution here: This could well be a day for testing for WKYC-DT at RF channel 17. We would not at all be surprised to see the signal go away, come back, go away, etc., through early Friday morning, as tuning and adjustment is being done.

But if you have a digital tuner or converter box, check out the signal now, scan it in, and you'll be more than ready for whatever happens in the next 24 hours.

By the way, our signal meter on our Zenith converter box is still picking up a weak signal out of the pre-transition RF 2 signal for WKYC-DT, though we imagine that it's not carrying the PSIP information that'd make it appear on converter boxes at this point...

Getting Ready

Here at the OMW World Headquarters, we often note that these blogs are published at our discretion, and we may not be around every day.

Well, you'd have to round up the proverbial "wild horses" to pull us away from this today and Friday.

Here's your update, just one day before the big Diigtal TV Transition Date.

A reminder: the vast majority of Cleveland market TV stations will shut off their analog signals at 10 AM on Friday, including all of the area's commercial TV network affiliates...

WVPX TESTS: The second post-transition digital signal to hit the Cleveland market lit up early this morning.

ION Networks O&O WVPX/23 Akron has never had a pre-transition digital signal. It was assigned RF channel 59 for that purpose, but WVPX never gained clearance for that signal from Canadian regulators...and channel 59 is out of the digital TV "core" anyway.

Thus, the station had to go through similar negotiations to clear the way to transition digitally via flash cut onto its analog channel, 23, and that signal made its first appearance late last night into early this morning.

Here at the OMW World Headquarters, we get strong signals out of the Akron "antenna farm" stations, and WVPX-DT was no exception last night. We've heard scattered reports elsewhere in the Cleveland market of mostly good reception, though we have no idea if WVPX-DT was operating at full, authorized post-transition power.

Notice that we said "was operating".

The testing WVPX-DT signal went away sometime this morning, and the ION-owned station is once again on analog channel 23.

While we presume there's some flexibility built in to this process for testing, WVPX-DT won't be allowed to permanently broadcast until after midnight on Friday morning...a condition built into all post-transition licenses, and one that WVIZ-DT and WNEO-DT both filed to bypass via FCC-issued special temporary authority.

AND ANOTHER: For that matter, the post-transition condition also applies to Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3's shiny new digital signal on RF channel 17.

But OMW reader Scott in Salem reports that WKYC did briefly light up the new facility on Wednesday night...at about 7:30 in the evening. (Note that Scott has described his impressive "deep fringe" antenna system some 55 feet high, which means that mere even rooftop antenna-owning mortals in Salem may or may not pick up the new Cleveland signals.)

Scott's passed along this capture from that brief WKYC-DT 17 operation, and notes that the signal indicator on his Dish Network HD/OTA receiver shows "signal quality", not strength.

We would expect WKYC to light up the new facility for good sometime after midnight tonight/tomorrow morning, and give it time to run before dumping analog channel 3 at 10 AM.

We haven't confirmed locally that WKYC will show nightlight/DTV information programming on analog 3 for the next two weeks, but the station has filed with the FCC more than once that it will do so. Either way, regular NBC and local WKYC programming will stop being aired on analog 3 after the switch.

AND THE PREVIOUS ONE: ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 Cleveland is making sure it's known, and known again...the new full-power digital signal that debuted earlier this week is official.

The station is airing, on all signals, a constant, non-ending crawl to that effect, which we've captured from the station's educational programming in this screen shot.

Presumably because WVIZ can't break off the scroll only to air on the analog side, it's also showing up on WVIZ-DT 25.1's new signal. (It does not air on WVIZ-DT's subchannels.)

If there was some way to separate the scroll to only air on analog 25, it would be a moot point...with that signal ending tomorrow, it'd be silly to buy/requisition/borrow equipment for a signal and technology that will go away for good in under 24 hours.

So, WVIZ viewers will have to endure the constant, non-ending scroll for another day...

NORTHEAST OHIO PREPAREDNESS: The folks at Nielsen are tracking viewer readiness for digital TV, and the "unprepared" numbers continue to drop as the transition is about to happen.

The Hollywood Reporter, via Reuters, reports:

Just days before the transition to digital television, 2.8 million households, or 2.5 percent of the TV market, are unprepared.

According to Nielsen, the latest tally is half of the 5.8 million that were unprepared in February, when the government postponed the transition by four months.

So, where are people "not ready", according to Nielsen? Quoting The Hollywood Reporter piece again:

The Albuquerque/Santa Fe area of New Mexico is the least ready, with 7.6 percent of TV homes completely unprepared. Several of the nation's largest markets -- including Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle-Tacoma, Los Angeles and Phoenix -- have unprepared TV households in the 4-5 percent range.

And...Cleveland/Akron (Canton), take your rightful place in the DTV List of Shame!

The Nielsen report (a press release detaling the findings is available here in a PDF file) says 3.67 percent of TV homes in Ohio's largest market are "completely unready" for the DTV transition.

That means the nearly 56,000 homes in question in the Cleveland/Akron (Caoton) TV market have absolutely no way to watch the converted local stations after analog signals go off the air tomorrow - no DTV converter box, no TV with digital tuner, no cable or satellite, or other method to get the local stations into their home.

We've passed along such numbers before, and always wonder - for example - how many of those 56,000 local TV homes watch much TV. We're wondering how the "unprepared" number will affect things like local TV ratings...where a fraction of a ratings point affects which station claims "number one" status in such things as local newscasts...

DT OR NOT DT: The FCC has clarified callsign confusion in the post-transition age.

A recent FCC order says that after tomorrow, station callsigns will revert to the analog form of the call sign, and that the -DT suffix will magically disappear from WKYC-DT, WEWS-DT, WJW-DT and the rest of America's digital only stations.

If a station wants to keep "-DT" for whatever reason, the commission will allow a no charge filing to do so.

If a station never had any callsign but one with a -DT suffix (like Myrtle Beach SC's new digital-only NBC affiliate), it can file, again, at no charge, to remove that suffix...assuming the combination is not taken elsewhere by another station.

In the case of that South Carolina station, there appear to be no radio stations or other TV stations with the calls WMBF, so it likely could just dump the "-DT" and go with the four letter calls...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Western Reserve PBS Adds New SD Subchannels

When we were marveling at the appearance of the full-power WVIZ-DT signal last night, we wondered...what subchannels would Western Reserve PBS offer after transition?

We knew that WNEO-DT 45.2 and WEAO-DT 49.2's SD simulcast of the main Western ReservePBS signal would go away after June 12th.

The Kent-based public broadcaster has announced that it'll add two new standard definition subchannels starting early the morning of June 13th, shortly after the button is pushed to end analog transmissions on WEAO/49 Akron.

And except for may be a small sliver of programming, the new Western Reserve PBS sujbchannels don't duplicate the three subchannels now seen market-wide in Cleveland via the upgraded WVIZ-DT signal.

WNEO-DT 45.2/WEAO-DT 49.2 will feature "Fusion", which will be a locally programmed arts, cultural and public affairs channel. That local service will actually launch on August 1st, so from June 13th until then, Western Reserve PBS will offer "Classic Arts Showcase" on 45.2/49.2.

WNEO-DT 45.3/WEAO-DT 49.3 will air "MHz Worldview", a nationally-offered subchannel service featuring English-language programming produced by a host of international public TV outlets, including Germany's Deutsche Welle, NHK, France 24 and others.

Those outlets have long produced English-language programming for North America, dating back to shortwave radio broadcasts from decades ago.

(Though shortwave is kind of on life support in 2009, many of the broadcasters now offer that programming both there and on the Internet..."Worldview" is structured similarly to the "World Radio Network", which airs on satellite radio and on the Internet.)

As a teenager, we used to listen to "Radio Netherlands", the Dutch government's shortwave service, in English...and gained a major appreciation of the Netherlands as a result.

Both new Western Reserve PBS subchannels will land on Time Warner Cable's digital SD lineup, but only in Akron, Canton and Youngstown to start...channel 367 for "MHz Worldview", 368 for "Fusion".

Massillon Cable has agreed to air the channels on positions 84 ("Fusion") and 85 ("Worldview").

How about Time Warner Cable's lineups in Cleveland and elsewhere?

A Western Reserve PBS news release, which we will reprint below, says: "Cleveland and other markets to follow".

The former Adelphia systems now in TWC's fold in the Cleveland area have also not added the HD feed of the 45/49 programming, though the station showed up in early channel lineup cards shortly after TWC took over the ex-Adelphia systems. PBS HD on the TWC Cleveland/former Adelphia systems is via carriage of WVIZ-DT 25.1 on HD channel 411.

Our note about a "small sliver" of duplication refers to Western Reserve PBS' plans to carry, on "Fusion", some Ohio public affairs programming presumably brought their way by "The Ohio Channel", which airs as a subchannel on WVIZ-DT (and in fact, WVIZ owner ideastream is a partner in producing the channel).

The Western Reserve PBS release is below...


Western Reserve Public Media announces launch of two new standard definition channels

KENT, Ohio – June 11, 2009 — Western Reserve Public Media (formerly PBS 45 & 49) announced today that it will launch two new standard definition broadcast services at midnight on June 13, 2009, to coincide with the national analog shut-off and to herald the beginning of the all-digital broadcast environment.

Fusion, the new service airing on WNEO.2/WEAO.2, will focus on arts, culture, public affairs and regional productions. Fusion will debut with Classic Arts Showcase programming airing around the clock until Wednesday, Aug. 1, when the new locally programmed schedule begins. The variety service will feature regionally produced programming from both Western Reserve Public Media and independent producers; arts and performance programming from PBS, American Public Television, Minority Consortia and other sources not carried on the organization’s primary channel; Ohio Statehouse floor activities coverage from Ohio Government channel and other public affairs programs; and more than 10 recently acquired British comedies and other BBC Worldwide programs not carried on Western Reserve PBS.

Premiere date: Classic Arts Showcase will air around the clock beginning Saturday, June 13, 2009. On Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2009, the new locally programmed schedule will begin.

Channel designations: Digital channels 45.2 (WNEO) and 49.2 (WEAO); Time Warner Cable channel 368 (beginning July 15 in Akron, Canton and Youngstown; Cleveland and other markets to follow); Massillon Cable channel 84; other cable system carriage pending

MHz Worldview, the new service airing on WNEO.3/WEAO.3, is an independent, noncommercial service presenting fresh, relevant English-language international content including news, documentaries, cultural programming, dramas, films and mysteries, music and sports. Known for its “programming for globally minded people,” MHz Worldview presents programs from around the world to American audiences, representing networks such as Asian News International, Beijing TV, Bolivision (Bolivia), Deutsche Welle (Germany), euroNews, France 24, Israel Broadcasting Authority, NHK World TV (Japan), Nigerian Television Authority, RT (formerly Russia Today), South African Broadcasting Corp. News International, Taiwan Macroview TV, TV Polonia and many others.

Premiere date: Saturday, June 13, 2009

Channel designations: Digital channels 45.3 (WNEO) and 49.3 (WEAO); Time Warner Cable channel 367 (beginning July 15 in Akron, Canton and Youngstown; Cleveland and other markets to follow); Massillon Cable channel 85; other cable system carriage pending

Western Reserve PBS, the organization’s primary, high-definition broadcast service, will continue to air on WNEO PBS 45.1 and WEAO PBS 49.1 and in its current cable and satellite positions. Western Reserve PBS offers a wide range of programs on subjects including science and nature; drama, art and music; how-tos, travel and adventure; history and biography; and news and public affairs. Additionally, the station airs over 60 hours of children’s programming each week. It is well-known for sustaining an excellent relationship with local independent producers and is the premier television outlet for their work.

“Western Reserve Public Media has long positioned itself as a broadcast service offering alternative TV programming — from commercial television stations as well as from other public television stations,” said Trina Cutter, president and CEO of Western Reserve Public Media. “Our two new channels will present unique, engaging program content for northeast Ohioans.

“For the past 10 years we have been intensely focused on the technical logistics of converting two broadcast transmitters to digital,” Cutter continued. “It is refreshing and reinvigorating to finally be shifting all of our focus to services for our community.”

The new broadcast services range from the local to the global. Station programmer Don Freeman explained, “We want to be a showcase for northeast Ohio’s best local and regional productions, a home for creative voices and a place to find out not only what is happening in the world, but what the rest of the world says about it when it’s happening.”

Western Reserve Public Media continues to work with area cable and satellite TV providers to add these new channels to their lineups. More information is available online at WesternReservePBS.org or by calling 1-800-554-4549.

Analog Shutoff Times As We Know Them

UPDATE 6/10/09 4:15 PM: OMW hears that Winston Broadcasting CW affiliate WBNX/55 has been promoting a 10 AM analog shutdown time, adding the station to the growing list of Cleveland market stations turning off the analog transmitter at that particular time.

And Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 confirms the 10 AM time in this item on its NewsNet5 website, along with announcing its own "On Your Side" DTV help phone bank...Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM, and Monday from 8:30 AM to 5 PM.

We've also corrected an error in the list below - Raycom CBS affiliate WTOL/11 Toledo will make their switch (literally, from analog 11 to digital 11) at 4;25 AM Friday, not 4:05 AM Friday. That was a typo on our part.

The original list is below...


It has taken us far too much time to compile this list...and it's not even complete.

As far as the Internet is concerned, pretty much all local TV stations in our coverage area seem to regard the shutoff time for their analog signals on Friday as a state secret.

In the Cleveland market, only NBC affiliate WKYC/3 and PBS affiliate WEAO/49 (Western Reserve PBS) have made an effort to let their website visitors know when their analog signals will go away.

In general, almost all stations have done a very poor job with the DTV sections of their websites. Many are regurgitating national-only information from their networks, or their website hosting company.

But we slogged through, and here's your market by market list. We are not listing Cincinnati and Dayton, as our colleagues at Tri-State Media Watch/Tri-State DTV Watch have extensively covered those areas...


CLEVELAND: As far as we know, the "Big Four and a Half" network stations in the Cleveland market are still planning on a 10 AM analog shutdown on Friday. That would be: WKYC/3 (NBC), WEWS/5 (ABC), WJW/8 (Fox) and WOIO/19 (CBS)-WUAB/43 (MyNetwork TV).

Only WKYC has actively publicized the time, both on its website (via our blogging colleague Frank Macek's "Director's Cut" blog) and on-air. If WEWS, WJW or WOIO-WUAB have put up the time on-air, we haven't run into it.

The "19 Action News" front page's DTV Countdown Clock now tracks to 10 AM on Friday. A clock linked through WUAB's My43.net, though, counts to midnight on Friday. Who knows? We suspect the latter is just something left behind from an earlier setup, since the WOIO front page clock now matches the time we've reported here.

Western Reserve PBS' WEAO/49, as reported here, is planning to shut down analog channel 49 at 11:59 PM.

We've heard that Univision O&O WQHS/61 is shutting down analog 61 at 11 PM, but we haven't confirmed that.

We have found no analog shutdown information for: WVIZ/25 (PBS) or WBNX/55 (CW). Ditto for ION Network O&O WVPX/23, which must perform a "flash cut" to debut its digital signal on RF channel 23 for the very first time.

The folowing stations have already turned off analog: WDLI/17 (TBN), WOAC/67 (informercials) and WMFD/68 Mansfield (local independent).

YOUNGSTOWN: We only have one confirmed analog shutdown time in the Youngstown market.

PBRTV's Tom Lavery tells us that officials with Vindicator NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 say it'll shut down the analog transmitter at 11:59 on Friday night.

We've searched, we've asked, and we can't find the analog shutoff times for the other two stations still needing to do so in the Youngstown market: WKBN/27 (CBS) and WYTV/33 (ABC).

Since both stations are controlled by the New Vision folks, we would expect them to turn off their analog transmitters at the same time.

Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 Alliance, of course, consigned analog 45 to the scrap heap way back in November...

TOLEDO: Thanks to a very helpful OMW reader, Toledo's analog shutoff time list is almost 100% complete.

And if you're a DTV watcher, you might want to head for Toledo Thursday night, and stay up all night...maybe getting a short nap or two between switches.

Here are the analog shutdown times for Toledo, in order of time early Friday morning:

12:07 AM - WTVG/13 (ABC)
2:05 AM - WNWO/24 (NBC)
4:25 AM - WTOL/11 (CBS)
10:00 AM - WUPW/36 (Fox)

OMW hears that WUPW had planned a 6 PM analog cutoff, but moved it up to 10 AM, due to FCC regulations about call center hours.

There's probably a reason for the early Friday morning times in Toledo - both WTVG/13 and WTOL/11 are "flash cutting" their digital signals onto their soon-to-be former analog channels.

We have no information about: WLMB/40 (religious/independent). Toledo's MyNetwork TV outlet, WMNT-CA 48, is a low-power station, and isn't affected by the end of full-power analog.

COLUMBUS: We're also missing a lot of information from Central Ohio's stations.

The only confirmation comes from Dispatch CBS affiliate WBNS/10, which has this message on its "Viewer Services" page:

"On Friday night at approximately 11:59 p.m., WBNS-10TV will sign off our analog signal as part of the government mandated DTV transition."

We can't find any information on analog shutdown times for the remaining Columbus market stations still putting out analog signals: WCMH/ 4 (NBC) and WSYX/6 (ABC).

A number of Columbus market stations have already turned off the analog juice: WTTE/28 (Fox), WOSU/34 (PBS), WSFJ/51 (TBN) and WWHO/53 (CW)...

LIMA: We wish all TV engineers were like Block NBC affiliate WLIO/35's VP/engineering Frederick Vobbe, who is well noted for sharing information online.

Vobbe's separate engineering site, WLIO.net, confirms the station's analog shutoff time for channel 35:

"On June 12th at 6:59AM we will sign off WLIO analog.

During 'First Edition' from 6AM to 7AM, we will be talking about the transition, and at the end of the news show we will press the button for the last time.

During the day, our technical staff will be disassembling the 1964 transmitter, which will be scrapped out."

We'd like to put a call out to viewers within range of WLIO's analog channel 35, especially...we'd love to see that in video, even if it's posted to YouTube or something. (We'll presumably also find it on WLIO's website, under the news rebroadcast section, but we'd like to see it off of analog 35.)

Lima's only other full power station, religious/independent WTLW/44, shut off its analog signal some time ago.

Lima's other network affiliates, WLQP-LP/18 (ABC), WOHL-CA 25 (Fox) and WOHL-LP 38 (CBS), are now owned by Block/WLIO, and are not subject to the full-power mandated analog shutoff.

WLIO VP/engineering Vobbe detailed the digital plans for the Lima LPTV stations in an earlier item on his blog...