Ready For Its Name Change

As reported earlier here on OMW, Kent-based public TV stations WNEO/45 Alliance-WEAO/49 Akron are about to take on a new identity.

Starting Wednesday, the stations now known as “PBS 45 & 49” on the air will become “Western Reserve PBS”…under the umbrella name of “Western Reserve Public Media”.

Both are just branding changes for 45/49 – the call letters will remain the same for both stations, and the stations’ owner continues to be known legally as Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc.

Those assurances, and assurances that the name change won’t affect programming, are found on a page on the stations’ website about the name change:

While our brand identity has changed, we are still the same organization you’ve known for over 33 years. We have the same staff of employees and the same broadcast schedule — only the name has changed. Our new brand identity is Western Reserve Public Media and the channels PBS 45 & 49 are now Western Reserve PBS, which will continue to operate as the primary broadcast service of the organization.

You can count on your favorite PBS 45 & 49 programs to be your favorite Western Reserve PBS programs.

The page also has humorous videos about the name change, which have also aired on TV.

The website address for WNEO/WEAO will also change to WesternReservePublicMedia.org, which as of this writing forwards to the existing PBS4549.org site.

This is the first of two major public relations steps for the local public TV outlet. The second is to educate Youngstown-market viewers of WNEO/45 that the station will go all digital in November, with analog channel 45 signing off early.

Oh, by the way, we checked with the good people at Western Reserve/WNEO/WEAO, and they tell us that indeed, at this time, analog low-power translator W58AM Youngstown will remain on analog channel 58 after the digital transition.

Though Western Reserve has a construction permit to convert it to digital operation (DT 44), among other things, money would have to be raised to pay for that conversion. As a result, any conversion of the analog translator meant to serve “low-lying areas” of the Mahoning Valley is not on the immediate to-do list right now.

W58AM and all other low-power translators, LPTV stations and Class A LPTV stations are not affected by the February 17, 2009 digital transition. While they can certainly still convert to digital if licensed to do so, it’s a voluntary conversion for those low-power stations…

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Your Digital TV Q&As

Late last week, we put out the call for your questions about the digital TV transition.

Here’s our first batch of those questions:

Q: Perhaps a list of stations and their actual operating frequencies would be helpful to all.

A: We’ll start here, because that information is pretty basic and should be up front. The following covers all full power local TV stations in the Northeast Ohio area. For those of you in the other parts of the state, that list would be way too long…a quick stop by the AntennaWeb or TV Fool websites should help you get that list based on your own address.

We’ll order the list by current analog channel numbers, since that’s how most people are used to listing stations. Then, we’ll list the RF channels the DT stations are actually using, or applying to use.

If there’s only one DT RF channel number listed, the station is using that channel now, and will continue to use it after the February analog-to-digital transition.

Thanks to computerized information sent alongside the digital TV signal, all channels will appear on digital tuners or converter boxes to be on their former analog channel number by way of a “virtual channel”:

3 – WKYC Cleveland (NBC) – DT: 2 (current), 17 (post-transition)
5 – WEWS Cleveland (ABC) – DT: 15
8 – WJW Cleveland (FOX) – DT: 31 (current), 8 (post-transition)
17 – WDLI Canton (TBN) – DT: 39 (current), applying for 49 (post-transition)
19 – WOIO Shaker Heights (CBS) – DT: 10
21 – WFMJ Youngstown (NBC) – DT: 20
23 – WVPX Akron (ION) – DT: 23 (post-transition – has never used pre-transition 59, and has no current digital signal)
25 – WVIZ Cleveland (PBS) – DT: 26
27 – WKBN Youngstown (CBS) – DT: 41
33 – WYTV Youngstown (ABC) – DT: 36
43 – WUAB Lorain (MyNet) – DT: 28
45 – WNEO Alliance (PBS) – DT: 46 (current), 45 (post-transition – starting in November 2008)
49 – WEAO Akron (PBS) – DT: 50
55 – WBNX Akron (CW) – DT: 30
61 – WQHS Cleveland (UNI) – DT: 34
67 – WOAC Canton (IND) – DT: 47
68 – WMFD Mansfield (IND) – DT: 12 (analog 68 now off-air)

Generally speaking, you don’t need to know that DT RF number. Digital tuners and converter boxes scan the band and do the translation automatically. The numbers ARE helpful if you have to manually scan per channel, for some reason (antenna reaiming, etc.).

Q: When the digital transition occurs will the stations be operating on the same frequencies, Channel 3, 5, 8, 19, etc etc.? Or will all be located in the UHF spectrum? I am interested in moving to off the air pick-up with HDTV sets or converter equipped analog sets in the house and getting off the cable, but living quite about 8 miles south west of the airport will probably require an outside antenna. A smaller UHF antenna would facilitate matters.

A: See above. (Our reader actually asked this question first.)

After analog signals shut off, you’ll need some sort of VHF antenna for WJW (moving to its current analog channel 8 at the transition). Even now, you’ll need one for WOIO (staying on DT 10). Those living near Mansfield will need one, even now, for WMFD-DT on RF 12.

But many UHF antennas are able to pick up signal on the high-VHF band, where all three stations will reside.

Both WJW and WOIO have filed to “maximize” their VHF digital allocations after the transition.

WOIO’s application is lower in power than WJW’s, and WOIO still has interference problems from CFPL (currently analog 10) in London, Ontario, Canada for those near Lake Erie. CFPL will presumably go digital at the Canadian transition date in 2011, and so far, it looks like they hope to stay on channel 10 digitally in London.

Your mileage may vary, and how this all works out in practice may be different than how it looks on digital paper.

Q: What kind of TV antenna – indoor or outdoor – should we buy to get the best reception?

A: There’s a general rule when it comes to antennas. The best is “high, outside and away from obstructions”. Anything else is generally a compromise.

If you can put an outdoor antenna on your roof, or high on your home, do so. If not, and you have an attic, you can put it there – but you’ll lose signal going inside the house.

If you can mount an outdoor antenna on a balcony or deck of your condo or apartment, that’d be the next bet. If you can point one out of a window, that’d be the next best idea.

Indoor antennas are generally nowhere near as good an option as outdoor ones, unless you’re living fairly close to the stations you want to pick up.

They should be used basically if you don’t have any ability to use an outdoor antenna, or if you’re close enough and can still pick up stations with no difficulty.

For example, if you live in the southern Cleveland suburbs or northern Akron suburbs, you might be fine with an indoor antenna…basically, the closer you are to the Parma “antenna farm” where all the full-power local TV stations have their towers…ditto for Youngstown folks south of downtown into places like Canfield, Boardman and Poland.

Keep in mind, though, that indoor antennas may appear to provide a stable signal, but what if you walk in front of your antenna in the living room? What if it’s aiming out the window, doing fine with picking up your favorite stations, and a big truck rolls down your street in front of it? You get the idea.

Amplified antennas may or may not help, depending on the antenna, where you are, and if there’s enough signal to amplify vs. the noise surrounding the signal.

Overall, an indoor antenna is basically always a second choice, unless you’re bathing in very strong signal, where it wouldn’t matter what kind of antenna you’re using.

Even so, putting up an outdoor/roof antenna in high-signal areas may give you options you wouldn’t have otherwise, like picking up nearby market stations. We know folks in Parma who can aim their antenna at the Youngstown area and get WKBN-DT with no problem…ditto for Youngstown market viewers who get stations from Cleveland and Pittsburgh thanks to a roof antenna…

Q: Will broadcast station increase their signals once they go to transmitting in digital only? Are most digital signals running at full power or are they slightly cut back?

A: Excellent question.

The short answer is, most area broadcasters are running “full power” under the current conditions on the TV band.

The extra answer is, after all the analog stations go away next February, conditions change, and many stations have filed to “maximize” their power levels to take advantage of those conditions.

We’ve talked about them here on occasion – WJW, WOIO, WYTV and others have filed those applications.

Though many of the “maximization” applications aren’t huge power leaps, WYTV’s is particularly notable, as it will go from 50KW to 1000KW! WJW will have an interim power level on digital channel 8 until they get approval for the upgrade to 30KW.

And yes, that’s maximizing on the VHF band, where stations don’t need the 1000KW power level to provide maximum service…just as VHF analog stations don’t need the same power levels as UHF analog stations.

These changes won’t be able to be implemented until after the analog dial shuts down, allowing those increases.

The current, pre-transition signal problems in the area…we’ve covered in the past.

* WKYC-DT is on low-VHF channel 2 digitally. That means even a decent power level can’t overcome the electrical noise and other such problems that make it difficult to receive for thousands of viewers, particularly those without roof antennas or far from Parma. That goes away in February, when WKYC’s digital signal is scheduled to land on DT RF channel 17 – the channel being vacated by analog WDLI/17 Canton.

* WVIZ-DT’s problems are also well-documented on this blog. A long-running legal and technical dispute with CBS Radio’s WNCX/98.5 – where the current WVIZ analog channel 25 trasmitter site is – was never fully resolved.

WVIZ has been running a puny temporary digital signal (1KW) from a tower behind its former studio facility on Brookpark Road in Parma. As we reported earlier, WVIZ-DT will light up its post-transition full-power facility on a new tower being built with WKYC at WKYC’s current site.

This is a good a time as any to note some new information: that WVIZ has received FCC approval for a more powerful (10KW) temporary digital facility on an existing tower at that same WKYC site.

It would appear that the move is necessitated by the sale of the former WVIZ studios! This temporary facility will be replaced by the permanent post-transition installation described above.

Since it doesn’t have to wait for a station to vacate an analog channel, like future tower mate WKYC, WVIZ should be able to light up from the new permanent tower at WKYC whenever that’s done…the station says in the STA application that it hopes to do so by November.

We welcome any questions, comments or corrections. Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) has a lot of information stored up in this noggin about the digital TV transition, but we’re not infallible…any clarifications are welcome!

WLEC Dumps Veteran Personality

Long-time Sandusky radio personality Mark Fogg won’t be heard doing his morning drive local show on BAS Broadcasting standards/oldies WLEC/1450 anymore.

The Sandusky Register reports that Fogg says his job was eliminated by BAS in a cost-cutting move. We’ll assume that BAS news director Steve Shoffner will continue, but with his newscasts fed into the ABC/Citadel “Timeless Classics” feed instead.

Fogg has been program director and sports director for the station BAS bought from Clear Channel, along with a number of other stations in the “Vacationland” region and in North Central and Northwest Ohio.

It’s not known how this will affect local high school sports coverage, which BAS will presumably continue to provide on WLEC and its other stations in the region…

Chris "The Mighty" Quinn Dies

UPDATE 12:30 AM 9/30/08: OMW hears that there will be calling hours for Chris Quinn later this week – Thursday, October 2nd from 5-7 PM, at Burr Funeral Home, at 116 South Street in Chardon

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We’re getting word this evening that Cleveland radio personality/engineer/all around radio guy Chris Quinn has passed away, apparently after an illness. We have no further details.

Chris “The Mighty” Quinn’s resume covers a number of important stations in Cleveland.

In the 1990’s, Chris moved from fill-ins, to weekend nights, to weeknights at oldies WMJI “Majic 105.7”. But he also worked well before that at some big local stations: like WIXY/1260, WGAR/1220, and WRMR/850.

We were unaware, though, that Chris worked at Akron’s WAKR/1590 in the early 1970’s, nor another stop listed in the information we were given, KHTZ in Los Angeles, in the 1980’s. (A quick Google search tells us that KHTZ “K-Hits” was apparently the immediate predecessor of classic rock-turned-FM talk KLSX/97.1.)

We were aware that Chris’ last stop in radio was as chief engineer of Cleveland gospel outlet WABQ, first at 1540 in Cleveland. He then followed 1540’s now-former ownership to their other station, the newly-renamed and newly-gospel-formatted WABQ/1460 in Painesville – the former WBKC.

We knew that, of course, because that’s where Chris “The Mighty” Quinn’s life intersected with ours.

A quick search of this blog for “Quinn” will reveal a number of items speculating on the future upgrade possibilities for then-WABQ/1540 (now WWGK), as it was about to be sold to Craig Karmazin’s Good Karma Broadcasting as his first Cleveland radio outlet. (OK, maybe the search term “WABQ” would yield better results, and filter out all the items about morning talk radio’s “Quinn and Rose”.)

Chris Quinn didn’t know about this blog at first.

But upon discovering the talk here, he was very, very helpful, providing us with very detailed (and accurate) information about what the new owner could do to try to upgrade the signal….and he did it on his own, since Chris went to Painesville with AM 1540’s former owners, and wasn’t involved in the upgrade filed recently by Good Karma.

Chris was helpful, gracious and went above and beyond the call in answering questions we brought up. So, it’s no surprise to us that word his passing, only making the rounds of the local broadcast community on this Sunday evening, has us already hearing from those who mourn Chris Quinn…

New HD Radio

As one of the approximately one-dozen Northeast Ohio residents with an HD Radio unit, it’s our obligation to inform the other 11 about new stations lighting up the “HD” light on those receivers.

There’s a new one as of this past week, and one we believe is pretty new.

The HD Radio newcomer is on the AM side, as Clear Channel sports WARF/1350 Akron “SportsRadio 1350” is using the digital technology as of late last week. That makes it the first Akron-licensed broadcaster to go “HD” – as sister WKDD/98.1 is actually licensed to Canton, as is WRQK/106.9. WHOF/101.7 is licensed to North Canton.

WARF, of course, is Akron’s oldest station that is still operating – dating back to its days as WADC in the mid-1920’s.

Since it’s AM, there’s no alternate programming on WARF…just a change in audio quality. AM HD has its drawbacks in that regard…non-music AM HD stations, especially, sometimes sound like they’re being sent over a low-bandwidth Internet connection with some artifacting.

But in brief listening over the past couple of days, the WARF HD side sounds less affected by that artifacting than sister talk WTAM/1100, one of two other area AMs putting out the IBOC carrier. (The third is Radio Disney O&O WWMK/1260.)

On the FM side, we don’t know how long it’s been doing HD, but Radio One urban AC powerhouse WZAK/93.1 Cleveland is simulcasting in the digital format now. WZAK has no HD2 or HD3 side formats, at least as of this writing.

And just so you’re not further confused, given our call for questions in the previous item:

“HD” on the radio side of things does not stand for “high definition”, though a full-bandwidth HD Radio channel may provide some audio improvements, particularly on FM.

We’d believed that it stood for “Hybrid Digital”, which is the technical name for the “HD” standard…”hybrid” meaning that stations broadcast both the analog carrier, and the digital carrier, in tandem.

But we’ve heard recently that it’s basically just a brand name…something which trademark holder iBiquity confirms in the FAQ on its own website for HD Radio:

Q : WHAT DOES THE HD IN HD RADIO MEAN?

A: The ‘HD’ in ‘HD Radio’ is part of iBiquity Digital’s brand name for its digital AM and FM radio technology. It does not mean either hybrid digital or high definition, it is simply the branding language for this new technology.

As always on this controversial topic, we have no intention of turning this item into yet another “pro vs. con” debate on HD Radio…or to provide a platform for some to promote their websites…

OMW’s First Digital TV Q&A

We went back to read our item about the early analog switchoff of Youngstown market PBS affiliate WNEO/45 Alliance, and…well, we figured some of our readers may have some questions about the digital TV transition.

Late on the night of February 17, 2009, just before the clock strikes midnight into the 18th, TV transmitter facilities around America will be very busy places…as every full-power TV station in the nation shuts off its analog transmitter for good. (For the record, as far as we know, the actual time deadline to do so is 11:59:59 PM, station local time, on February 17th.)

OMW would like to take the next few days to invite you to submit any questions about the television digital transition, both in general, and specifically addressed to questions about Ohio’s TV stations.

Send them directly to our E-Mail address, which is linked on the left hand side of this blog.

We can pretty much answer most of the Northeast Ohio questions, but may have to seek out help for the answers elsewhere in the state.

We’ll reproduce all the questions here on the Mighty Blog(tm), in a future item. We won’t print your name or city, unless you have some reason you’d like us to do so. (We’re accomodating, that way.)

Have a great weekend!

Low Power Power?

A proposal being floated by Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin could have positive impact on at least two small local TV stations.

Multichannel News reports that Martin is pushing for an October 15th vote on the first phase of a plan – requesting public comment – to get low-power “Class A” stations must-carry status on cable systems:

Martin’s plan would allow 555 Class A TV stations to apply for full-power status from the FCC. After obtaining approval, the stations could demand immediate cable carriage under a 1992 law held constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1997.

Locally, that would definitely affect one TV outlet – Media-Com’s WAOH-LP/29 Akron-W35AX Cleveland, otherwise known as “The CAT”. The station already has negotiated cable carriage with Time Warner Cable’s Akron-based system, on position 14, and has scattered other cable coverage on TWC and other systems (WOW Cable, for example).

But it remains absent from the former Cleveland Adelphia system now a part of Time Warner’s Northeast Ohio footprint – a large chunk of the Cleveland-area viewership.

Assuming this proposal by the FCC chief ever sees the light of day, the devil’s in the details.

For one, what does “apply for full-power status” mean? And would it require WAOH/W35AX to improve facilities at all, if it wishes to assert carriage on the cable systems not already carrying the station?

And the area’s other major low-power TV operation is Image Video’s WIVM-LP/52 Canton-WIVN-LP 29 Newcomerstown(/Dover/New Philadelphia).

Unless we’re reading the FCC records wrong, WIVM/WIVN do not actually have Class A status, and are listed as standard TV translators. If they wish to assert must-carry on cable under this plan, again, assuming it becomes policy, they’d have to file to become Class A stations.

(Despite the calls, WAOH-LP and W35AX are Class A stations.)

Since one of the big hurdles to Class A status for LPTVers is original, local programming…the Image Video outlets should have no problem meeting that standard. Their daily morning simulcast of WHBC/1480’s morning drive show, along with extensive high school football coverage, should cover those guidelines with no problem.

Like Media-Com’s “The CAT”, WIVM/WIVN do have some local cable carriage…on the digital side of TWC’s Canton system (365, up there with the local TV outlets’ digital subchannels), and the high-analog reaches (99) of the former Adelphia (now TWC) system in Tuscarawas County.

We also don’t know if the FCC chairman’s plans or the FCC’s “must-carry” rules would require cable companies to carry the converted Class A stations in basic tiers, not requiring digital converters.

And like the Multichannel News folks, we don’t know if the change at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in January will affect Martin’s status as FCC commissioner…thus, possibly, affecting this plan.

And it’s not stations like “The CAT” or WIVM that Martin mentions when talking about his proposal. According to Multichannel News, the FCC says 43% of Class A outlets are Spanish-language:

“I think it’s an important opportunity…to help to try provide opportunities for diverse broadcasters to be able to provide service to those Spanish-speaking homes,” Martin told reporters.