This report comes to you just two days before all full-power analog...oh, you know the drill by now. And like one of our OMW updates, it's a multi-parter...look for the bold subheadings...
And coming later today, a list of all the Ohio stations we have shutoff times for on Friday...
WVIZ IS HERE: As we excitedly reported here on Tuesday afternoon, the long wait is over for those who could never get ideastream PBS WVIZ/25 Cleveland's succession of anemic temporary digital signals.
From a small 1 kW (!) signal just barely clearing the back of WVIZ's former studio location on Brookpark Road in Parma, WVIZ eventually enlisted the help of its new tower partner, Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3.
But while waiting for that long-delayed tower to be built, WVIZ-DT had to quickly camp out on an auxiliary tower at the WKYC site (10 kW, still not nearly powerful or high enough to reach all that far out of southern Cuyahoga County).
The Channel 25 folks had already endured years worth of delays, in a long time legal and technical dispute with a company that had a different name back when the dispute started - Infinity Radio, which is today's CBS Radio.
Infinity/CBS was involved because the analog 25 facility in North Royalton is co-located with CBS classic rock WNCX/98.5...and there were apparent concerns about WVIZ mounting a new digital antenna at the same site.
Those concerns are now officially stamped "OVER"...and in fact, WVIZ can take down its analog 25 antenna after Friday.
Co-locating with the new WKYC tower was the best long-term solution for the Cleveland PBS affiliate, as we now know. But...various tower construction delays, pushed the completion date until...well, now. WKYC and WVIZ got an unintended assist when the government nudged the analog shutdown date from February 17 to June 12.
As we told one of our commenters, we don't know if this is the official, full-power WVIZ-DT post-transition signal. But it feels like it to us. And we also know that such installations occasionally entail testing, and sometimes, the need to reduce power for one reason or another.
If WVIZ's shiny new digital signal disappears on and off between now and Friday, don't panic. We saw it ditch out a few times, for brief periods, on Tuesday evening. Consider this an Advanced Beta Test before the transition.
WVIZ's tower-mate, WKYC, won't turn on the new digital RF 17 facility until Friday's transition. Since the two stations appear to be using one antenna with what the TV folks call a "combiner", work on WKYC-DT 17 could potentially disrupt WVIZ's new signal at times until the former is complete. Again, hang in there until after Friday, and that applies to other stations as well.
Oh, and about that WVIZ-DT 25.9 subchannel, labeled "CRRS"...it's an audio only feed for the folks at the Cleveland Sight Center and their radio reading service. It's the same audio which has been broadcast for years on the Second Audio Program (SAP) on WVIZ's analog channel 25.
Not all digital tuners pick up 25.9. Those which are not equipped to deal with a lack of video may not take the scan. Here at OMW World Headquarters, all of our tuners and converter boxes pick up 25.9 with no problem...but a USB HDTV tuner we use on our computer does not.
The signal seems good to us. Our first report came from a reader in Salem, who is likely almost literally under the tower of the Youngstown market half of Northeast Ohio's other PBS affiliate - Western Reserve PBS (WNEO/45, in specific). We don't know what kind of antenna setup that reader has.
Though WNEO and sister WEAO/49 have had a virtual monopoly on over-air digital PBS programming until now, we're still glad to see WVIZ added to the mix for us. For one, WVIZ's subchannel menu (PBS World, Ohio Channel, etc.) is different...
AND SPEAKING OF OUR FRIENDS AT CAMPUS CENTER DRIVE: And speaking of 45/49, Western Reserve PBS Communications Coordinator and Official OMW/ODTV Liaison Diane Steinert reminds us that the station is providing somewhere to turn for those seeking local DTV help:
KENT, Ohio — June 8, 2009 — This Friday, June 12, television stations across the country will make the DTV switch. Western Reserve Public Media can help those who are having difficulty with the transition via its DTV Help Desk. The free service is accessible by phone at 1-877-388-4727 (1-877-DTV-4PBS) or by e-mail at dtv4pbs@WesternReservePublicMedia.org. The station’s Web site, WesternReservePBS.org, also offers detailed information about the DTV transition.
Western Reserve Public Media will shut off its analog WEAO signal at 11:59 p.m. on June 12. WEAO serves the Akron/Canton/Cleveland markets. The station also operates WNEO, which serves the greater Youngstown area. WNEO converted to a digital-only signal in November. In addition to providing the DTV Help Desk, the organization has conducted open houses, library visits and presentations to community organizations regarding the DTV transition.
They forgot to mention station boss Trina Cutter's door-to-door visits to those needing DTV help at all hours of the day and night! Heh. Well, Ms. Cutter has presumably have memorized the floor plan of most area libraries, at any rate.
We're passing this along not only because Western Reserve PBS has been so good to us when it comes to providing clear information about the digital transition, but also because we strongly suggest that those still needing help at this point find a LOCAL help source that is aware of all the unique issues we face in Northeast Ohio...issues that, since you've read about them here, you already know.
But much of the federal effort to educate viewers about the upcoming conversion (as in, two days from now) ignores such issues.
Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) dropped in on one of those FCC-sponsored help events at a Cleveland-area location recently.
While the two young college-age folks were very pleasant, and went out of their way to help, they had no answer when visitors came up and told them that they'd already scanned a converter box, but they couldn't get NBC, CBS or PBS programming.
The out-of-towners brought in by the FCC also had no idea that their portable setup, at the food court entrance of a local mall, was the worst possible location to pick up local digital TV stations with a modest indoor antenna...the Parma antenna farm was on the exact OPPOSITE side of the tent, and a giant shopping mall was in the way.
In its release, Western Reserve PBS' Amanda Donatelli echoes a lot of what we've written, recently:
“The most common issues involve antennas, and we are happy to help determine how to get the best possible signal strength via an antenna.” Donatelli reminds viewers that during the digital transition, some stations may change channel positions or frequencies. Because of this, viewers who don’t have cable or satellite service should periodically re-scan their converter boxes or digital TVs for channels.
You've got it, Amanda...keep spreading the word in the next few days, both before and after Friday.
And no, as far as we know, the station's Diane Steinert does not OFFICIALLY carry the title of Official OMW/ODTV Liaison, but we're grateful for all the help she's provided us...
MEDIA COVERAGE: And some brief notes about other media coverage about the Friday transition.
Rubber City Radio oldies/news WAKR/1590 Akron devoted much of an hour of the station's "Ray Horner Morning Show" Tuesday to a visit by the Federal Communications Commission's Bill Cline, talking about the digital transition and Northeast Ohio.
If you missed it, or aren't within WAKR's listening area, you can read about it - and hear audio of some of the questions asked by the station's listeners - in this article on WAKR's extensive AkronNewsNow website.
The article helpfully includes a link to the FCC's revamped DTV.gov, which has improved markedly in recent weeks. It now hosts the FCC's reception maps tool, and a way to check for local resources by zip code.
Doing that for most area zip codes will bring contact information for the FCC's contracted free on-site installation helper, Installs Inc., which might be the best wa to quickly solve pressing problems.
Rubber City Radio VP/information media and OMW reader Ed Esposito tells us that the article linked above will be beefed up by the weekend, with more video and help as the post-transition area starts. And, goodness knows, this ballgame isn't over on Friday night.
Over at the Akron Beacon Journal, another OMW reader shone the spotlight on the digital transition in a Monday article.
Pop culture writer Rich Heldenfels shared some of the area details that we've shared here for some time...again, details national sources gloss over.
He echoed what we've heard - that most local stations will take analog dark at around 10 AM on Friday. And he lists a number of digital subchannels being offered by Cleveland market stations, from WKYC and WOIO's weather feeds, to WUAB's 'This TV", to WDLI's collection of religious-themed subchannels.
We could nitpick a little, but Mr. Heldenfels mostly Has a Clue.
Like Plain Dealer business writer Shaheen Samavati, Heldenfels also zeroes in on Northeast Ohio's digital problem children - in specific, NBC affiliate WKYC/3 and CBS affiliate WOIO/19. (That's a list that included PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 until Tuesday afternoon.)
He correctly notes WKYC's upcoming move to digital channel 17. We'd write about what he said, but regular OMW/ODTV readers have it permanently burned into their brains.
And about "Cleveland's CBS 19", we quote:
WOIO, which broadcasts digitally on Channel 10, has asked for a power increase from the FCC but is still awaiting action on it. It does plan to move its digital antenna to the top of its analog tower and expects that to help. In working with individual viewers with reception problems, WOIO program manager Lisa McManus said the station has found a better antenna makes a difference, ''usually one that is mounted outdoors.''
And if WOIO hadn't voluntarily chosen to stay on a channel that gets major interference from a Canadian station once received so strongly here that some area cable systems carried it, and if it had kept UHF channel 19 for its digital allocation, Northeast Ohio viewers, particularly in the heart of the Cleveland and Akron areas, could save a lot of money on outdoor antennas.
We also wonder if the station expects to move its antenna to the top of the tower BEFORE the requested power increase. We don't see any FCC applications that would support that.
We close this Rather Long Update with a list of the FCC's latest local DTV help visits, this time in the Akron area (we copied the list from Rich Heldenfels' article). Go ahead, ask 'em if they know why you can't get NBC or CBS over the air.
Though, we may not be fair here, as the mission appears to be "showing people how to hook up a converter box", not answering all their local digital TV questions. Check in with the Western Reserve PBS hotline listed above for help with that...
• Wednesday, 9 a.m.-noon, Kent/Ravenna Goodwill Store, 2528 State Road, Kent.
• Wednesday, 2-6 p.m., Goodwill, 75 Midway Plaza, Tallmadge.
• Thursday, 9 a.m.-noon, Lakemore Goodwill, 1500 Canton Road, Akron.
• Thursday, 2-6 p.m., Goodwill, 570 E. Waterloo Road, Akron.
• Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Walmart, 2887 S. Arlington St., Akron.