Monday, June 29, 2009

We Give Up On WJW, WOIO Signals

OK, we've ranted enough.

And just like with our earlier ranting about the afternoon drive talk programming on a certain major Cleveland market AM radio station, we've realized that ranting and raving about it here isn't going to change the situation.

Apparently, the hobbled VHF digital over-air signals of Cleveland market Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 and Raycom Media CBS affiliate WOIO/19 are not getting any better in the near term.

We have what we have.

WOIO never showed up on literally thousands of local digital TV over-air watchers' tuners the very moment the station decided to set down upon - and eventually, stay on - RF channel 10.

Yes, the very same channel occupied to this day and beyond by Canadian powerhouse CFPL/10...which appeared directly on many TV sets in the Cleveland TV market before WOIO-DT lit up. The open waters of Lake Erie are a powerful signal conveyor.

Though WOIO is pushing for a power hike to 10.3 kW, it appears to be hobbled even out of the gate, and will still have to consider CFPL's Not Going Anywhere Presence on the other side of that certain lake.

And we mean "Not Going Anywhere", because CFPL filed to stay on channel 10 in digital form, whenever Canada has its own analog shutoff (currently scheduled for 2011).

Any WOIO facility upgrade would be severely limited to the north of Parma because of this. And you know, places like Cleveland, Westlake, Mentor and the like are all north of Parma. And the power upgrade application in the hopper for WOIO is actually 1.3 kW less powerful than WJW's current setup (11.6 kW, as we reported earlier).

WJW, if you believe the FCC records, has a CP modification that would allow it 30 kW of power.

Not only do we have no indication that it's in the works, we have heard the same rumblings other people have heard - that WJW has no intent on actually building it out...that the CP is sitting there unbuilt to protect the station's signal options in the future.

That doesn't make a lot of sense to us, for reasons we've stated here before. We don't put much stock in the rumblings.

And even if the 30 kW permit is built out, OMW reader Trip Ericson in Virginia, who runs the popular RabbitEars TV information site, has mentioned in comments posted here that the proposed facility is highly directional north into Lake Erie...and doesn't believe it'll help a lot of the complaints we've seen south of Parma.

The bottom line - no amount of us complaining about it here, will make any signal upgrade come, unless news comes forth that either station has decided on - or implemented - a solution, we'll declare the case closed, and go to our cable-connected sets if we wish to watch programming on "Fox 8" or "Cleveland's CBS 19".

The damage these two stations receive from losing a portion of OTA viewers may or may not be a large concern to them, due to the 90% cable and satellite penetration in the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) TV market we reported earlier.

But before we close our books on WJW and WOIO's signal problems, here's a link to an excellent article on Why VHF Isn't What It Used To Be, from the TV trade site TVNewsday. It's from the site's founder, Harry Jessell, and it's called "VHF: Now Everything You Know Is Wrong".

These two snippets sum up the case against digital VHF signals in today's world. In the article, Jessell noted that when he was a kid, his mother vacuuming disrupted VHF analog signals:

It turns out the vacuuming problem has a technical name: impulse noise. It does terrible things to VHF signals and the TV pictures they produce and comes not just from vacuums, but from other electrical appliances with motors, florescent lights, power lines, radios — the whole shebang of man-made interference.

The impulse noise is all around us and probably much worse today than it was 40 or 45 years ago when I was dead serious about my TV viewing.


VHF stations have other problems that attenuate what power they do have. Because of the long wavelengths of VHF signals, they have trouble penetrating homes and apartment buildings. What's more, many committed over-the-air viewers were sold UHF-only TV antennas or all-band antennas with small, lousy VHF elements.

It all explains why viewers are calling hotlines wondering what happened to their favorite stations and why broadcasters are looking for solutions.

Things going as they do for your Primary Editorial Voice(tm), we'll probably learn later today or tomorrow that progress has been made on either station's signal situation. If that happens, we'll post it here.

And if so, you can thank us in advance, even if our role in the timing is only by accident...


  1. I actually have a television in the same room as one of my parrots. Before the transition he watched WJW. Now with the transition he's watching WKYC.

    He doesn't seem to care. And since I have cable that makes two of us.

  2. Agreed, there's no point in pursuing this anymore. The people who could do something to improve the station's footprint obviously don't care.

  3. Ever since WKYC moved to channel 17, it comes in as one of my best channels(along with WEWS) in Akron. And this is with a set of crappy old rabbit ears that can pick up just about every other Cleveland station, except for WJW and WOIO. I've done a few scans and I've had the channel data for WOIO and WJW show up on the list, but no watchable signal. When it was a clear night a few days ago I was able to get an unwatchable, constantly breaking up picture on WOIO and WJW.

    The sad thing about this situation is WJW has no excuse for this. They had the perfect channel: UHF 31. Why did they have to move? I'm amazed at the stupidity of channels that want to return to their old number on VHF. Even ABC O&O WLS returned to VHF channel 7. June 12 was a sad day, the day WJW committed DTV suicide.

  4. Totally off topic, but....
    I was in the Cleveland area yesterday; does the Plain Dealer not publish a Sunday listings booklet? There was none in the copy of the paper I bought (in Mentor), and I checked copies at other places I stopped as far west as Westlake, so if it was a mistake in putting the paper together, it was apparently area-wide.

    That said, I happened on your blog through a Google search to answer that question. TV stations are one of the things I'm geeky about, so even though I'm out of your area (specifically, Philadelphia and sometimes northern New Jersey), it's still interesting to read.

    Good job!

    Digital reception is disastrous and idiosyncratic at my parents' in New Jersey (20 miles from New York but on the wrong side of a hill that really isn't all that high). I tried it once here in Philadelphia - about February - and got not a single channel in my ground-floor apartment.

    I can bore you with mid-Atlantic details if you like....

  5. @Michael:

    The Plain Dealer does not include the Sunday TV listing section in newsstand copies. Only home subscribers get it.

  6. I am finally able to receive WOIO consistently for the first time since June 12th. I use a full size UHF & VHF antenna mounted indoors on the 2nd floor. I had been running the signal through an amplifier during the run-up to the DTV conversion since the DTV signals had been so weak. Yesterday I took the amplifier out of the system & suddenly I could receive WOIO.
    --- I am guessing that the CFPL signal was also being amplified and fatally interfered with the WOIO signal.

  7. Well, I moved my antenna to the attic last night and I now get WJW again, but have lost WOIO, which I was getting before! Fortunately, the Detroit CBS affiliate is also coming in now, so all I'm missing really is '19 Action News', which was always an embarrassment anyway.


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