THIS JUST IN: WJW Files For Early Analog Shutoff

One Cleveland market TV station has now filed with the FCC to shut off its analog transmitter, and move to its post-transition digital operation, on the original digital transition date of February 17th.

Local TV-owned Fox affiliate WJW/8 “FOX 8″‘s filing with the FCC hit the agency’s online database early this morning. (Thanks to RabbitEars.info’s Trip Ericson for first word, and for keeping track of all the applications!)

The filing references the current uncertainty over the digital transition date, with a vote on moving it to June 12th set for sometime today in the U.S. House. From the filing itself:

This instant notice is submitted because of the current existence of pending legislation that might postpone the analog termination deadline.

And in the request, Local TV cites the cost of keeping two transmitters going past the previously arranged February deadline:

For almost 3 years – since Congress in the Digital Television and Public Safety Act of 2005 established February 17, 2009, as the deadline for all television stations to terminate analog broadcast service – the Station has planned to transition as of February 17, 2009.

Continued analog operation of the Station beyond the existing DTV transition deadline would result in a significant financial hardship, including unbudgeted costs for maintenance of the analog facility and electrical power consumption. The Station thus believes that this instant analog termination is necessary for purposes of the transition.

WJW’s filing also requests authorization to shut off current pre-transition digital channel 31 at the original DTV deadline, and to start digital operations on channel 8 after the analog transmitter is shut off.

By the way, we’re reminded surfing through the WJW applications that for the moment, digital channel 8 has a construction permit for an 11KW operation – the station’s maximization application would improve that to 30KW.

We have no idea if it’s possible that the maximization construction permit would be granted by February 17th. (For that matter, we have no idea how the FCC is going to handle this whole thing in the first place, with hundreds of filings by stations looking to go all-digital on that original date…with currently working analog transmitters.)

We also note that WJW’s currently authorized post-transition digital channel 8 power level is about three times higher than WOIO-DT’s pre-transition 3.5KW operation.

So, it would appear from here that the local competitive considerations are moot, and that the rush to ensure an “on-time” digital transition on the original date is being driven nationwide by station ownership groups like Local TV. The WJW application was one of a number of such applications filed by some of Local TV’s operations, and by some closely associated Tribune Broadcasting stations.

We don’t see the other out-of-town group owners in Cleveland listed in the update to Trip Ericson’s early termination list (Gannett, Raycom), and there’s no filing at least yet from Winston Broadcasting CW affiliate WBNX/55 Akron.

Gannett’s WKYC/3 and ideastream PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 are somewhat unlikely to file for February 17th termination, given the not-yet-under-construction status of the new WKYC tower in Parma – and the nature of the stations’ current pre-transition facilities, with WKYC on interference-plagued digital channel 2, and WVIZ with a low-power 10KW STA on the side of an existing WKYC tower.

Western Reserve PBS’ WEAO/49 Akron has already informed OMW that it will continue to operate in analog if the digital transition date moves to June 12th…though like every other operator we’ve heard from, they’re not happy about the continued expense of operating the analog transmitter four months past the original February 17th deadline…

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