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" 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...)


  1. A weekend trip to the Lodi area (West Salem's Dragway 42 to be exact) included the decision to carry my new 20" flying saucer shaped, omni-directional antenna for a bit of field testing.

    I can report that (with the antenna sitting on top of the motorhome ladder) I was able to get the full compliment of Cleveland stations (3, 5, 8, 19, 25, and 55) as well as BOTH PBS 45 and 49, ION, 17, the pair of 60-something infomercial and Hispanic stations, plus a Lorain based religious station (2 sub-channels / 1 broadcasting and 1 placeholder)

    Unfortunately, (and very surprisingly) no Mansfield station signal as well as no whisp of coverage from any Columbus stations.

  2. (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.)

    No, they have a full-power digital station bearing down on it across a lake. (WOOD-DT in Grand Rapids)

  3. Yipes, Trip! How did WOOD-DT get a 30 kW signal on DT 7?

  4. What's going on with WYTV's power increase that was supposed to happen after the transition?

  5. Both WJW TV 8 and WOIO TV 19 will have to face the fact they will need to work with the FCC in changing their channel allocations - WJW TV 8 to UHF, its obvious (including to the engineers and management at Local TV) that it was a dumb move to stay at the analog frequecy that TV 8 had been at. Time to swallow their pride and move the signal to a clear UHF channel. As for WOIO TV, CBS has really got to be pissed at them for their 'damaged goods' signal. They will really need to get their kesters in gear and switch to a clear frequency where they don't run into the problems of being unable to up their transmit power. To put it very simply, not being able to pick up a Cleveland signal in the Cleveland market in the city of Cleveland itself is pretty stupid, don't you think? Then again, if you are a TV 19 engineer or in management there, you are most likely under your desk sucking your collective thumbs at such a stupid move. Sounds like Raycom simply didn't do its homework! Betcha the sales staff at WOIO TV 19 is terrified to answer their phones in fear of finding an irate advertiser on the other end. Can you say 'make-goods' up the rear? ...sure you can!


  6. One's got to wonder whose rubber stamping "approved" on these DTV maximization applications?

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  8. I just took at look at the nightlight operation on analog 3. They were listing local TV stations with their call sign and station phone number, so that they could be contacted by viewers. I was surprised that WKBN was listed, so apparently someone thinks WKBN has enough viewership in the Cleveland market to justify listing their station information on WKYC's nightlight operation (I tend to agree with that one too). WFMJ and WYTV were not listed.

    WOIO is indeed getting an ear full from many angry viewers. This is the observation I've seen while checking their DTV page on I only found ONE single lonely complement about their DTV operations. Maybe this is also why WKYC has listed WKBN on their analog nightlight station list.

  9. =============
    WOIO is indeed getting an earful from many angry viewers...

    About 6PM Monday, David Whittman made the mistake of posting this on the station's Twitter account.

    How's the reception out there in the new digital world?

    I'm sure there was no 'love-fest' in the replies.


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