Northeast Ohio’s Digital TV Transition

Note: The Blogger interface sometimes munges URL links with ampersands in them.

If any of the below links don’t work, go to the FCC’s TV Query page, put in any of the below call letters, and when you get a station’s information returned, click on “Application List” anywhere it appears. You’ll be able to find the proper documents there…look for the ones filed this past week.

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Less than one year from now, all those big, analog signals that have fed Northeast Ohio TV sets our local stations for decades are going to be shut off, as part of the federally-mandated digital TV transition. (Please, don’t tell us that any OMW reader is just learning of this!)

We spent most of Sunday afternoon and evening sifting through newly filed FCC documents. Every full-power station in the country was required, by last Tuesday, to file a status report on how they are handling their path to the digital transition date, February 17, 2009.

The verdict?

The largest group of Northeast Ohio stations have built out their post-transition digital facilities, and will just flip the switch to turn off the analog transmitter on that date…continuing on the same digital channel they’re using right now.

The following stations have some sort of extenuating circumstances. If you don’t see a Cleveland or Youngstown market TV station on the following list, it is in the first category. The list is sorted in order of current analog channel number.

The stations listed below have a link to their report about the transition, and much of the detail is contained in PDF files linked to the bottom of that report.

Cleveland market:

WKYC – As has already been announced, Gannett’s Cleveland NBC affiliate is abandoning both analog 3 and the current digital channel, 2, for digital channel 17. No matter what, they’ll have to wait until TBN’s WDLI/17 switches off their own analog transmitter on that channel, on 2/17/09.

The station has to resolve Canadian coordination issues for the new DT 17 facility, as listed in the attachment:

Although it is WKYC’s understanding that the Canadian government intends to approve the station’s channel 17 facilities, until coordination has concluded, WKYC cannot order its channel 17 antenna, as the parameters of the station’s final digital channel have not yet been conclusively set.

WKYC cites the uncertainties of Northeast Ohio weather post-November, and expects to file for an STA (Special Temporary Authority) to operate WKYC-DT on its current channel 2 until the DT 17 facility construction is completed.

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WEWS – The Scripps Cleveland ABC affiliate will remain on digital channel 15 after the transition, abandoning out of core analog channel 5.

But in October 2008, it’ll have to do some antenna movement to complete its post-transition facility.

Basically, the station’s current top mounted antennas – digital and analog – have to be moved to a side-mount position, so WEWS engineers can add more to the tower to move the new digital antenna to its prescribed position.

Aside from a temporary reduction in both the analog and pre-transition digital signal between this time and the new digital antenna’s installation, it’s likely not many will notice a change…

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WJW – The Cleveland FOX O&O (for now) will abandon its pre-transition channel 31 digital facility, and will camp out digitally on good ol’ Channel 8.

The station will have to file for a new construction permit to specify its use of the analog antenna for the new digital installation, as per the application:

WJW PLANS TO FILE AN APPLICATION FOR POST-TRANSITION CONSTRUCTION PERMIT SPECIFYING THE HIGHER CENTER OF RADIATION AND OMNIDIRECTIONAL PATTERN OF ITS ACTUAL PROPOSED POST-TRANSITION DTV FACILITY AND SEEKS TO HAVE ITS APPENDIX B PARAMETERS MODIFIED ACCORDINGLY. WJW-DT’S PROPOSED SERVICE CONTOUR WILL NOT EXTEND MORE THAN FIVE MILES BEYOND ITS PRESENT DTV ALLOTMENT CONTOUR IN ANY DIRECTION. THEREFORE, IT IS ANTICIPATED THAT CANADIAN COORDINATION WILL NOT BE NECCESSARY.

Of course, by the time the digital transition date hits, WJW will likely be in the hands of its new owner, Local TV LLC…assuming there are no major delays in that transaction…

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WVPX – The Akron licensed ION TV-owned facility will flash cut from analog to digital on Channel 23 on 2/17/09.

The station says it’ll has “identified” the equipment it’ll use, and will convert its analog transmitter for digital operation on the existing analog antenna. The status report says this move, starting in June 2008, will result in a reduction of the current analog service area by “33%”.

WVPX never lit up its pre-transition digital signal on channel 59 due to numerous mostly technical reasons, many of them having to do with issues coordinating with Canada. And channel 59 is “out of core” post-transition, so this is the only option WVPX had…

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WVIZ – Believe it or not, after years of headaches, there’s some possible “good news” for Cleveland’s PBS affiliate in the land of digital TV.

WVIZ will be staying on its pre-transition digital channel 26, abandoning 25. But the Ideastream-owned PBS affiliate has had a long-running legal dispute with CBS Radio, which owns its tower site (CBS’ WNCX/98.5 is there).

Is there an end, soon? Read the report…

IDEASTREAM FINALLY DEVELOPED A LEASE MODIFICATION THAT IS BELIEVED TO MEET CBS’S NEEDS AND A COMPLETE PROPOSAL WITH EXHIBITS WAS SUBMITTED TO CBS FOR APPROVAL. FURTHER INFORMATION WAS REQUESTED BY CBS AND IT HAS BEEN PROVIDED, BUT IDEASTREAM DOES NOT YET HAVE AN EXECUTED LEASE MODIFICATION SO THAT WORK CAN BEGIN.

Once that agreement takes effect, the application says a side-mounted temporary facility at the North Royalton site would take about six months, and they’ll request an STA for it. They say the final, top-mounted, post-transition facility “WOULD NOT BE IN PLACE UNTIL SOME TIME BETWEEN FEBRUARY 17, 2009 AND AUGUST 17, 2009”. WVIZ’s application says the station would apply for an extension to cover that, if this plan is what is decided upon.

But whatever power level the side-mounted STA facility would specify, either way, WVIZ-DT would finally be on an actual tower, and not on a small tower that barely clears the roof of the station’s former studio building on Brookpark Road in Parma…

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WKBN – This one is less complex than it looks.

The Youngstown CBS station is abandoning analog 27 for digital 41, and has an STA to run pretty much close to its final post-transition facility…only with a side-mounted antenna.

The station says it plans to move to a top-mounted antenna, and may need an STA to continue running the current STA facility until the move is complete – which due to weather, may not happen until the spring of 2009.

To viewers, like with WEWS-DT, the change may not even be noticeable…

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WNEO – The Alliance-licensed, Youngstown market half of Kent-based PBS affiliate “PBS 45 & 49” is moving its digital operations to the current analog channel 45 after the transition.

Well, that’s not quite accurate.

The station’s application says the “flash cut” of 45 to digital, and the end of the DT 46 operation, will actually happen BEFORE the 2/17/09 digital transition date, making WNEO the first full-power analog station in the entire region to shut down.

The station says it’ll retrofit the current DT 46 transmitter to channel 45, and since they’ll be using the analog 45 antenna for the digital post-transition DT 45…

“…NETO anticipates that analog service will also be terminated after November 19, 2008. Once the retrofitting of the transmitter is completed, NETO will connect the transmitter to the existing (top-mounted) channel 45 antenna and commence operations on its post-transition channel.”

We’ll assume that WNEO is ensuring no disruption of service to local cable operators and satellite providers.

And over in Akron, sister WEAO-DT isn’t moving from channel 50, using its current facilities…

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That’s it for now. Every other operator in the region will stay on the current digital channel, and use the current digital facility, after the transition.

Yes, this means more grief for those who have trouble picking up the digital signal of Raycom Cleveland market CBS affiliate WOIO/19, which will continue to camp out on digital channel 10.

The problem here is mainly for those along Lake Erie, where interference comes from analog CFPL-TV London, Ontario…which barrels across the lake into lakeshore communities like Lakewood and Euclid.

Since Canada has no hard digital TV transition date, that CFPL channel 10 analog signal isn’t going away any time soon.

At least viewers in the southwestern part of the Cleveland market won’t have to contend with interference from WBNS out of Columbus after next February. WBNS, also on analog channel 10, is keeping its digital facility on channel 21 post-transition…

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