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...