WNEO Digital Coming Back – Step One

OMW hears that Western Reserve PBS’ WNEO-DT/45 Alliance (the operation’s Youngstown market facility) is indeed on course to return to the airwaves on Friday.

After the Kent-based PBS affiliate shut off the analog channel 45 signal for good on Wednesday morning, station engineers have been busy installing the new digital channel 45 transmitter, and have been testing it off-air into a dummy load.

The digital transmitter is being switched today into the now-formerly analog transmission line, and Western Reserve PBS officials tell OMW that they expect to begin testing the new signal tonight.

Assuming all the testing goes well, the WNEO digital signal on its new home on Channel 45 (both in reality and virtually) will permanently return to the air Friday.

And one note there – since WNEO-DT has moved RF frequencies, even those who had previously scanned its signal into digital tuners and boxes earlier will have to rescan it when it returns.

The previously scanned signal depended on WNEO-DT’s presence on its earlier RF channel 46. That facility no longer exists, and is being replaced by the new home of WNEO-DT – on its former analog channel 45.

None of this, of course, affects Akron/Canton/Cleveland area viewers of WEAO/49, which continues in both its existing analog and digital forms. And WEAO viewers won’t have to rescan their digital tuners or converter boxes either now, or at the federal digital transition on February 17, 2009 – as WEAO will remain digitally with its current facilities.

And none of this has affected the bulk of the Youngstown area’s cable or satellite subscribers. The area’s major cable systems – Time Warner, Armstrong and Comcast – and satellite TV providers DirecTV and Dish Network have all been feeding their viewers Western Reserve PBS programming via WEAO’s signal.

Another technical note: An OMW reader tells us, and Western Reserve PBS officials confirm, that the new WNEO digital signal about to debut will operate at a power level of 44KW, the currently-licensed power level for the moved WNEO-DT. The new signal will, though, come from the higher antenna formerly used by analog channel 45.

WNEO applied this summer to maximize the station’s digital signal at 500KW…but that’s been held up due to a very small area of predicted interference that would be caused by the maximization of the digital signal of Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV/4 – which also lives on digital channel 45.

The Western Reserve PBS folks and WDIV owner Post-Newsweek came to an agreement (PDF file) to accept the minimal interference, which means the WNEO-DT 500KW maximization is likely to be approved soon.

Until then, it’s possible at least some viewers who could receive WNEO-DT before the change may have more trouble picking it up on Friday, particularly outside of the immediate Mahoning Valley area and near the station’s antenna site in Salem.

But we would fully expect Western Reserve PBS to quickly move to upgrade the power, when the 500KW construction permit is granted…

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