Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's About The Timing

Here we are, just two weeks and one day away from the now-set-in-stone (we presume) digital TV transition date of June 12th.

And as we get closer, the timing gets clearer.

OMW hears that the major local network affiliate stations in the Cleveland market are coordinating a time to shut off their analog signals on the transition date - that time being 10 AM on the 12th. Some other stations may not join that parade...for example, we're hearing that Univision O&O WQHS/61 may wait for 11 PM.

One thing we haven't noted 10 AM on June 12th, Cleveland Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 will not actually turn off its long-time home of analog channel 3. WKYC is one of the stations participating in the FCC's "nightlight" program, so analog 3 will be on for another few weeks.

Instead of carrying Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien, "Chuck" and other NBC programming (and "Channel 3 News"), under "nightlight", the analog WKYC signal will run a loop of information about the digital TV transition, including contact information for those who need help making the switch.

We don't know when WKYC will finally hit the "OFF" button on the analog transmitter, but it'll be anywhere from two weeks to a month after June 12th.

Now, how about that much-watched WKYC/WVIZ tower?

OMW has reason to believe it's on schedule, and that both stations will be transmitting their new, full-power digital signals from there at the June 12th transition. (And much rejoicing was heard throughout Digital TV Land!)

And in fact, ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ-DT is so eager to abandon its 10 kW temporary facility for a full-power's asking the FCC to allow it to turn on the new post-transition signal early.

That's one week early, as in June 5th. (Here's the PDF of the engineering statement supporting the STA request.)

It is a similar filing to one made by Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 Alliance, which started airing its then-licensed new 44 kW digital signal on RF 45...then quickly found that it really needed to light up a construction permit for 500 kW that its post-transition license condition said couldn't be turned on until February 17th. (Remember THAT date? It almost seems quaint!)

As far as we know, WKYC-DT will make the RF 2 to RF 17 switch in time for the June 12th transition. WKYC has not filed for any pre-transition STA for its digital RF 17 operation.

We've traipsed through the FCC filings to find out - for example - that Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 tells the FCC it is indeed ready to light up its 30 kW digital facility on RF 8 at the transition on the 12th:



WJW's 30 kW post-transition power level on RF 8 was approved back in March, but like WVIZ-DT, the approval hinges on the digital transition date.

We haven't yet been able to find out when the three Youngstown market commercial stations will make the switch on that day...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

DTV Season Into High Gear

Like the upcoming Memorial Day weekend usually signals the start of the mythical Summer Driving Season, today apparently signals the start of the Official DTV Transition - We're Serious About This, We're Really Going To Do This Now - Season...with the June 12th transition date just weeks away.

Local TV stations in Northeast Ohio are indeed joining along with a nationwide DTV "soft test", interrupting their analog signals three times today to urge viewers to, well, make their own transition.

Cleveland Plain Dealer business writer/DTV transition watcher Shaheen Samavati reports that most of the Cleveland market's full-power stations will interrupt analog programming at three times today to air the messages:


People still receiving over-the-air analog television signals through an antenna will have their programs interrupted at 7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. with an alert telling them how to prepare for the end of analog broadcasting on June 12.

Those already watching digital TV, as well as those connected to cable or other pay-TV services, should not see the alert.

In the Cleveland-Akron area, stations participating in the test are WBNX Channel 55, WEWS Channel 5, WJW Channel 8, WKYC Channel 3, WQHS Channel 61, WOIO Channel 19, WUAB Channel 43, and WVIZ Channel 25.


Not on the list for various reasons:

* ION O&O WVPX/23. The station won't even have a digital signal until analog channel 23 signs off at the transition, replaced with digital channel 23. Perhaps the ION folks decided to hold off on the "soft test" for that reason, since viewers would have no ability to check out the new signal.

* Western Reserve PBS' WEAO/49. The Kent-based PBS outlet has not participated in past tests, and has already transitioned its Youngstown-market WNEO/45 Alliance to all-digital status.

(And note: your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) was not near an analog-only TV at 7:30 this morning, so we don't know if first "soft test" went off as planned. Since cable and satellite providers aren't carrying the analog-only signals anymore for the most part, we presumably can't set up our TiVo to catch this.)

The tests aren't the only sign that the June 12th digital transition date is coming soon.

Samavati's article in the PD notes that federally-sponsored DTV "mobile assistance centers" will set up at a number of Cleveland-area locations in the next few days:


• Thursday 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Richmond Town Square Mall, 691 Richmond Road, Richmond Heights

• Friday 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Cleveland Goodwill, 2295 E. 55th St., Cleveland

• Friday 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Cleveland Goodwill - Fairwood, 13719 Lorain Ave., Cleveland

• Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Great American Rib Cook-off, Time Warner Cable Amphitheater, 351 Canal Road, Cleveland


The "mobile assistance centers" will show people how to hook up digital converter boxes, and give help with getting those $40 government coupons to defray the cost of the boxes.

The mobile centers have already visited Canton, and we don't believe they have been in Akron yet, with no Akron visits on the current schedule (PDF file). (Maybe Akron doesn't need help?)

Samavati's article also notes that Northeast Ohio is one of a number of areas where the FCC is sponsoring free in-home installations of the boxes, and gives a number (800-582-4250) people can call to contact the Buffalo NY-based firm doing the installs...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

WKYC/WVIZ Tower Nearly Done

It's now three weeks from what appears to be the final digital TV transition date, June 12th, when all full-power analog signals in the United States will sign off for good.

And work on one new local digital TV transmission tower appears to be up to speed.

Yes, we're talking about Gannett Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3's new tower at its world-famous Broadview Road transmitter site in Parma, a tower which will also be shared with ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25's new digital antenna.

And OMW readers continue to turn the Broadview Road site into a quasi-tourist attraction for those who keep track of local media along with us.

One of our readers shares this photo of the new tower construction, taken Monday.

And that picture was taken just one week after our previous visit to the site, on the evening of Sunday, May 10th. (The sky condition is also a lot clearer!)

It appears the tower is very near to completion. We presume there's still work to do (like, say, mounting antennas), but the structure itself appears almost done.

In its latest digital transition report to the FCC, filed on April 10th, WKYC tower-mate WVIZ noted that its antenna was completed, and it would request delivery based on information from tower crews:


The near-completion of the tower is good news to over-air digital watchers of WKYC's NBC programming, and WVIZ's PBS programming.

And it's a welcome sight to the stations themselves.

With analog signals now set to shut down for good on June 12th, neither station wants their temporary facilities to be their only facilities... WKYC's current digital RF channel 2 facility, plagued with interference due to its low-VHF channel position, or WVIZ's current 10kW temporary antenna mounted on a WKYC auxiliary tower...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Canton Digital TV Help This Weekend

Passing this along from WKYC/3 senior director Frank Macek's "Director's Cut" blog:

Do you still need help with the DTV transition?

A mobile assistance center will be in Northeast Ohio this weekend to help consumers. The switch to digital television takes place June 12.

The mobile assistance centers will be in Canton this weekend. The staff can demonstrate how to hook up a converter box to an analog TV and to help you apply for a $40 converter box coupon.

Saturday May 16 & Sunday May 17

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
5th Avenue Flea Market
3800 Harmont Ave. NE
Canton, Ohio

Monday, May 11, 2009

Looking Up

(The following also appears on our main blog, Ohio Media Watch, this morning:)

We couldn't resist the temptation to look again, so we drove the OMW Mobile to the Parma/Seven Hills border once again late Sunday...and checked out the progress of the under construction WKYC/WVIZ tower just over a month before the planned national digital TV transition date of June 12.

We were told by readers a couple of weeks ago that the tower appeared "about half finished".

We're not very good at doing "on the fly" estimates, but here are some pictures.

In our estimation, the new tower is now about two-thirds the way up the existing tower next to it.

While we're no experts at how towers are constructed (paging long-time friend, colleague and World Championship Tower Hunter Scott Fybush!), it would appear to us that the tower pictured could be done well before that June 12th deadline, which is the only date that really matters in this whole thing.

FCC-wise, NBC affiliate WKYC/3 has their backup plan...they can stay on digital RF channel 2 for a number of months, thanks to a Special Temporary Authority granted by the FCC, even after analog channel 3 signs off.

Similarly, PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 can camp out on its own temporary facility mounted to a nearby secondary tower at the WKYC site, as it signs off analog channel 25 in June.

But you can bet that both stations don't want to have to use those options.

Barring any unforeseen problems, our semi-educated guess is that the new facilities for both WKYC and WVIZ will be up and running at the transition.

Though WVIZ could well power up the new digital facility before June 12th, we believe WKYC is going to wait to make the RF 2 to RF 17 switch on that date...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Towering Over Parma

NOTE: The below item originally ran on our main blog, Ohio Media Watch, as part of a larger item.

The update we mention in this item will be posted here on ODTV later...


It's funny, how we've become the focal point of information about the under construction tower that'll hold the digital TV antennas for WKYC and ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25.

And for that matter, it's amusing how many people are deeply interested in the project. We get about a half-dozen E-mails about that tower each week.

We haven't visited our friends along the Parma street next to the WKYC transmitter site for a while now...but readers tell us the tower "is about half done".

One of our readers says it doesn't look like the tower will be completed by "mid-May", the date WVIZ gave in an FCC filing as the time they expect to be able to mount an antenna and start testing.

The other excitedly told us - "it's about half done!". Different perspectives, we guess.

And of course, June 12th is the "big" day...when both WKYC's analog channel 3 and WVIZ's analog channel 25 are gone, and the digital signals from the new tower are expected to start.

Later on (this) blog, we'll share our pictures from a few weeks ago...which show one important aspect of the tower construction that should clear up the timeline....