Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Letter To Dave Folsom

Oh, sometimes poking a little fun is too easy.

In an earlier item, ODTV cited an article by TVNewsday's Harry Jessell about the problems experienced by VHF digital TV operators. Jessell cited such things as VHF's vulnerability to impulse noise, and the more widespread use of indoor antennas in 2009.

Dave Folsom took keyboard to E-mail client, and has written a response to Jessell's earlier article in a "Letter to the Editor" published today on the trade website. (Don't go to the link yet! You'll spoil the surprise!)

Mr. Folsom takes everyone to task, from the FCC for ignoring higher power recommendations for VHF DTV antenna manufacturers for poor performance and misleading labeling regarding VHF reception. He also talks about the need for better performance out of tuners and converter boxes.

Quoting Mr. Folsom:

VHF DTV transmission can work as well as UHF transmission if it is allowed enough transmission power, receiver performance improves and indoor and outdoor antennas are designed to receive both spectrum bands properly.

It also could work "as well" if a TV station owner did not insist upon grabbing a VHF allocation that will be forever hampered by a powerful analog (and later, digital) signal in another nearby country, which carries across a Great Lake back into the United States.

Which TV station owner would do that, perhaps?

Why, Raycom Media...which owns Cleveland market CBS affiliate WOIO/19, refusing to budge from RF channel 10 for its digital operation, which is across Lake Erie from powerful London, Ontario-based CFPL/10...which, like Windsor/Detroit area powerhouse CKLW/800, actually had historic over-air coverage in parts of the Cleveland market back in the day.

And that's where we spring the surprise.

Dave Folsom isn't just any reader of the TVNewsday site.

He's VP/Chief Technology Officer guessed it!...Raycom Media, the owner of WOIO and sister MyNetwork TV affiliate WUAB/43. He and his bosses are the people responsible for WOIO's current digital over-air TV mess.

Now, we don't disagree with most of Dave's basic points.

It's clear to us, for example, that VHF power levels are not nearly what they should be.

WOIO, for example, has been putting out a below-anemic 3.5 kW while it struggles on RF channel 10. It's trying to get an increase to a whopping 10.3 kW (oooh, ahh), but is having trouble coordinating that with the signal of...umm...CFPL in Canada. (Hey! How'd that station get there!)

VHF life would be easier for WOIO if it hadn't squeezed in next to CFPL. Digital over-air life for the station would probably be better if it hadn't abandoned UHF 19 for digital operation, but that horse is well out of the barn now.

And even if you needed a rooftop antenna to get CFPL back in the day here, WOIO still has to design its facility to protect the station's viewership on the Canadian site of Lake Erie, meaning power limits and directional antenna patterns.

The same protection needs hampered pre-transition digital applications by Winston Broadcasting CW affiliate WBNX/55 Akron (which eventually managed to light up RF 30), and ION O&O WVPX/23 Akron (which never got approval for pre-transition RF 59, and had to flash cut to 23 at the DTV transition last month).

A power level increase is not The End Answer for VHF DTV. Mr. Folsom makes some very valid points about receiver and antenna performance for VHF, and poor labeling.

But when your DTV transmitter is pushing out less than 4 kW (!) co-channel with a Canadian signal that can ride the waves of Lake Erie right towards your market...that is not any answer, and even 10 kW won't help that situation.

Mr. Folsom's company also owns CBS affiliate WTOL/11 Toledo, and a commenter to the TVNewsday item talks about VHF DTV problems there...


  1. They'd better be talking about a real power boost. WTOV/9's power boost from 9KW ERP to 23KW ERP did absolutely nothing to improve reception for me. I have a detectable but unwatchable signal at both power levels. I still think it's problems with multipath interference, but a substantial power increase still may help. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that stations were to be running 1/5th of the power levels of their equivalent analog counterparts. This largely holds true based on what I've observed on the FCC database in regards to power levels on UHF digital television. This was probably the big bonus that sold the FCC on 8VSB. VHF digital television is NOT 1/5th of the power level. It's more on the average of 1/10th of the power level or less of their equivalent analog counterparts.

  2. Just a note, broadcast stations WOIO TV 19 and WJW TV 8, should be watching what’s going on at WCPO TV in Cincinnati. Faced with sudden loss of viewers in the transition from analog to digital, the WCPO people rolled up their sleeves and got to work by installing a new Dielectric Circularly Polarized THV Digital Antenna on top of its 900’ transmission tower. Scripps-Howard has always been on the ball engineering-wise, and made a careful decision, then acted on it. WOIO TV 19 and WJW TV 8 would do well to follow the WCPO developments and see whether their success might cure signal problems for WOIO and WJW. Another station out west found ways to successfully up their transmit power with FCC blessing and regained viewers they had lost in the transition by combining their transmit power from a duo transmitter into one. Something for both stations to research and think about. Granted, any changes are not cheap, however, loss of advertiser revenue because of loss of signal coverage is far more expensive.

    - Andrew, -


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