We've reached the point of no return in regards to the digital TV transition. And at this point, even a member of Congress wildly waving hands and laying down on the DTV Track won't stop the end of full-power analog TV in the United States, by the end of the day this Friday.
So, those who have to deal with the transition are looking at what could happen after Friday.
The New York Times and Washington Post weighed in less than a week before DTV Day, in articles over the weekend. We chuckled at the Times' almost panicky headline - "Millions Face Blank Screens in TV Switch".
But the latest survey by the Nielsen Company indicates that as of the end of May, more than 10 percent of the 114 million households that have television sets are either completely or partly unprepared.
Later in the article, you find out that about 9 million of those sets are second TV sets in another room in the home...which means the households themselves could well be prepared on main viewing sets.
Both articles point to the next step in DTV preparedness...the need to install, adjust or otherwise deal with antennas. Among those in that boat are FCC acting chairman Michael Copps,...quoting the Post article:
Michael J. Copps, acting chairman of the FCC, said he's having his own reception problems. When he upgraded his TV set in February, the picture was excellent. But now that the leaves have grown back on the trees surrounding his house, some stations don't come in as well.
Far too little DTV education attention has been paid to antennas, even in this interim period between the original DTV transition date and the new one. Just three days ago, we saw one of those standard NAB-produced DTV education spots...with a very brief antenna mention. The graphic onstreen pointed to a small, indoor antenna on top of the converter box.
We also haven't seen nearly enough about the need to rescan your digital box after Friday, particularly in markets like Cleveland...where two major network affiliates (NBC affiliate WKYC/3 and Fox affiliate WJW/8) land on entirely different RF channels after the transition.
In this region, after Friday, many areas won't see any problems.
Those within reasonable distance from the Parma antenna farm, in southern Cuyahoga County or northern Summit County, should have few difficulties...particularly when WKYC lights up its new RF 17 digital facility, and ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 lights up its full power signal, from the antenna now officially mounted upon the new tower the stations are sharing at the WKYC transmitter site.
A hat tip there to WKYC senior director and "Director's Cut" blogger Frank Macek...it would appear from his description, and what we have already reported, that the new antenna will broadcast a combined signal for WKYC (RF 17) and WVIZ (RF 26).
As of yet, we haven't seen a peep out of the new full-power WVIZ digital signal...we expect it'll light up sometime between now and Friday, given the station's effort to secure early use of the post-transition facility it would otherwise not be able to use until Friday. WKYC will move its digital facility to RF 17 on Friday.
OK, so you're under 20 miles from Parma, you have a decent aim at the antenna farm, and you'll probably be happy after Friday, give or take a lower powered CBS affiliate that is struggling to upgrade its digital signal on RF channel 10.
OMW hears that Canadian coordination issues are still holding up Raycom Media WOIO/19's application to upgrade from 3.5 kW to 10.3 kW, and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that on the other side of this is London ON powerhouse CFPL/10.
Why Raycom picked a digital channel already occupied by an analog signal often seen along Lake Erie in the middle of the Cleveland market is beyond us. To make matters worse, whenever Canada transitions to digital - currently the deadline is 2011 - CFPL isn't budging from 10 for its digital signal!
But what if you're in the "parentheses" part of the Cleveland/Akron TV market?
The Nielsen folks call Ohio's largest TV market, officially, the "Cleveland/Akron (Canton)" market...and its those folks in Stark County and beyond, on the fringes of the market, that will struggle the most when it comes to getting digital signals.
In the analog world, viewers from Mansfield to Ashtabula could "skate by" with a snowy 3, 5 or 8 signal out of the Cleveland area... much like your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) can endure a little snow from the area's local "Retro TV" outlet, WAOH-LP 29 Akron/W35AX 35 Cleveland, if we really want to catch up with Jim Rockford again.
But in the digital world, that "snowy signal" doesn't translate into a watchable digital picture in many cases. The signal at a similar level just won't decode, and you don't have the choice to endure interference to watch.
And as a result, some Canton area OTA digital viewers have turned to signals like Youngstown CBS affiliate WKBN/27 (and its now HD digital Fox subchannel), which are certainly easier to receive than WOIO-DT's anemic 3.5 kW signal that far from Parma.
Canton is still very much part of the Cleveland/Akron market, parentheses and all. We're not expecting any cable or satellite carriage in Canton from WKBN, NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 and sister CW affiliate "WBCB", or even ABC affiliate WYTV/33 whenever it lights up its 1000 kW digital signal.
But...many of the Cleveland market stations will lose over-air only viewers in Stark County to Youngstown. Others, on the western edge of the county, may not even have that over-air option.
So, here's where we sit. Keep watching ODTV and OMW for updates, including word of when WVIZ-DT will finally light up its full-power signal.
We're also still trying to find out the analog shutoff times of a handful of area stations, including all three remaining full-power stations in Youngstown (Western Reserve PBS' WNEO/45 already consigned analog 45 to the scrap heap last November...its Akron simulcaster, WEAO/49, does so at a minute before midnight on Friday night).
As far as we know, WKYC, WEWS, WJW, WOIO and WUAB still plan to dump analog at 10 AM Friday...though as we mentioned, WKYC's analog 3 will continue airing for the next few weeks as a nightlight/DTV information station...