Back To Digital TV

We return to the world of the Up In The Air Digital TV Transition on a key day.

The deadline was late last night for local TV stations to file notifications that they intend to shut down their analog signals on the original transition date of February 17, 2009 – which, looking at the calendar, is exactly one week from today.

A bill passed by Congress and awaiting President Barack Obama’s expected signature (today?) moves the date to June 12.

Even if stations had already filed such notifications, new FCC rules released last Thursday required them to do so again. And since Thursday, a number of stations have backed away from those “early transition” plans, most notably Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 “Fox 8” in Cleveland.

Though we aren’t 100% sure that all applications to “go early” have been processed yet, we do have more information of note. We’re told that as early as today, the FCC could release a nationwide list of stations that have filed to transition early.

We’ll “hit the highlights” here, market by market, without much detail for now…

CLEVELAND/AKRON: It looks like Northeast Ohio’s largest market will basically keep analog going until the new June 12th transition date – save for one very minor station.

None of the major Cleveland network affiliates have filed to transition on February 17th under the new FCC rules. Local TV’s WJW did not re-file this time around, as required, which makes sense considering the station’s recently announced decision to stay in analog on channel 8 until June.

The market’s two public broadcasters are obviously staying on in analog. WVIZ/25 has no suitable full-power facility until that WKYC tower is completed in Parma. WEAO/49 announced (first through OMW, thank you, Campus Center Drive!) that they’re staying with analog until June – despite sister station WNEO/45 being digital-only since November.

And if you want an excellent example of what a TV station SHOULD do on its website in this confusing time, check out this notice from Western Reserve PBS, linked from a graphic prominently placed on the station’s main web page:

Because the government has proposed a delay of the national DTV transition date, Western Reserve PBS will convert its WEAO analog signal to digital on June 12, 2009.

Other local stations: How hard was that?

How hard is it do to something like WKYC/3 senior director Frank Macek did, on his “Director’s Cut” blog, informing viewers of the station’s decision to stay on analog 3 until June 12th?

That one minor station filing to go early in the Cleveland/Akron (Canton) market? Canton-licensed WOAC/67, the infomercial paradise now in a trust due to owner Multicultural Broadcasting’s financial situation, has put in the required electronic paperwork to shut down analog channel 67. When you’re forced to put your stations in a trust due to finances, it’s hard to justify paying for four more months of analog broadcasting.

WOAC-DT has been operating for some time on digital channel 47 (67-1), and the station’s programming means not many will miss analog 67 no matter what. Both facilities operate from Portage County’s Brimfield Township at I-76 and Ohio 43, just across that state highway from Media-Com’s WAOH-LP 29 “The Cat”, and sister talk WNIR/100.1 “The Talk of Akron”.

One note here: The FCC database shows WJW/8’s earlier request to flash cut to digital 8 early as being granted. We don’t know what that means at this point, or if WJW could “hang onto that” if it later decides to switch before June…

YOUNGSTOWN: There’s big news here, as it appears the Mahoning Valley’s three full-power commercial stations will stay analog until the new June 12th date after all.

New Vision CBS affiliate WKBN/27 and its LMA partner, Parkin Broadcasting ABC affiliate WYTV/33, had been among the early analog shutoff filers.

The stations, according to numerous viewers who’ve written to OMW, have repeatedly told viewers that yes – their digital transition would go on as scheduled February 17, despite action to move the date in Washington DC.

OMW is getting late word that WKBN has just announced that it has changed its mind, and that analog 27 will continue to broadcast until June 12. We’re told that announcement came on last night’s 11 PM edition of “27 First News”, and no surprise, we can’t find it yet on the station’s website.

We haven’t heard about similar announcements on WYTV/33, but since the stations are joined-at-the-LMA hip, we’d be surprised if WYTV didn’t follow WKBN’s lead – unless nominal owner Todd Parkin feels the need to shut off the analog 33 transmitter separately to save money.

As of this writing, WKBN and WYTV have NOT filed the appropriate FCC form to transition on February 17th, so it follows with last night’s announcement.

Vindicator NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 has already announced that it will keep the analog signal on until the new June transition date, so that’d be a clean sweep of the market’s commercial outlets.

Of course, Western Reserve PBS Youngstown market affiliate WNEO/45 Alliance has already sent its analog transmitter to the Retired Transmitter Home, and has been all-digital since mid-November…as reported here frequently….

WHEELING/STEUBENVILLE: The Ohio Valley will go digital.

Both full-power stations serving that region – Cox NBC affiliate WTOV/9 Steubenville and West Virginia Media CBS(/ABC/Fox) affiliate WTRF/7 Wheeling WV – did file the appropriate paperwork, along with STA requests to move their digital operations to the current analog channels on February 17th.

Oddly enough, it looks like WTOV’s STA request to go digital on channel 9 on the 17th has already been granted. WTRF’s hasn’t yet, though there is a typo in the request – it says the station wants to go digital on channel 12. That’d appear to be accidentally copied over from the application filed by West Virginia Media’s sister station in Clarksburg WV, WBOY/12.

We’re wondering if the “full market” early digital transition will catch scrutiny from the FCC, though as stated, WTOV’s early digital channel 9 request is already in the hopper…

COLUMBUS: Media General NBC affiliate WCMH/4 was one of the stations which filed earlier to shut off analog 4 on February 17th, the original digital transition date.

As of this writing, the station has not filed the required electronic form to affirm that wish.

And Sinclair, which owns two stations in the Columbus market and was expected to flip both ABC affiliate WSYX/6 and Fox affiliate WTTE/28 to all-digital a week from today, has only filed the required electronic form for one of the two stations – WTTE.

That move actually mirrors what they’ve done up until now. In earlier filings, Sinclair didn’t file for early digital transition for WSYX at the same time they did so for WTTE.

Dispatch CBS affiliate WBNS/10 already announced that it would stay on in analog until June, as did Ohio State University-owned PBS affiliate WOSU/34.

LIN CW affiliate WWHO/53 has filed the new early termination forms, and says it will shut off analog channel 53 on February 17th…

LIMA: The only Lima market station that needs to make a decision hasn’t yet announced its call, at least online.

But Block NBC affiliate WLIO/35 has been very open in the process, with VP/chief engineer Frederick Vobbe noting on his WLIO Engineering blog Friday that the station was still considering their options after the FCC adopted those new rules on Thursday.

A check of the FCC database this morning shows that WLIO did not file the newly required February 17th transition form, though as we’ve noted in this item repeatedly, we don’t know if all of the forms filed until the 11:59 PM deadline last night have been processed on the FCC’s public database.

Engineer Vobbe has a nice roundup of what he’s heard about other markets at this Monday blog entry.

About his own market:

In Lima, WLIO-35 remains the only high-power analog on the air. WTLW transitioned back on December 1st, 2008. WBGU-27 transitioned on December 31st, 2008.

Vobbe notes that since the low-power network affiliates in Lima are now owned by WLIO’s parent company, they’ll “likely” go digital, though no plan has been put into place yet. As low-power or Class A outlets, the stations are not affected by the full-power digital transition, and any switch will be voluntary…

TOLEDO: From the linked item by WLIO’s Frederick Vobbe:

Toledo stations are going to wait till June 12th.

We already wrote that one decision was made far from Toledo, as the ABC network owns Toledo affiliate WTVG/13 “13abc”, and had pledged to the FCC that it would keep all its owned-and-operated stations going in analog until June.

A check of the FCC database this morning shows no Toledo market full-power station has filed the required new form to end analog service on February 17th – again, assuming all the forms filed until late last night have been processed and put in the FCC’s CDBS database, which we believe is the case.

Bowling Green State University PBS affiliate WBGU/27 is in the Toledo market (Wood County), though it also serves Lima, and as mentioned before, it has already become digital-only…

DAYTON: It appears Dayton will be an early digital market, pending FCC approval.

The FCC database this morning shows that all of Dayton’s full-power commercial stations, along with ThinkTV PBS affiliate WPTD/16, have filed the new forms to transition on the original February 17th date.

Numerous earlier news reports, as recent as Monday, said the Dayton broadcasters would shut off analog as a group a week from today, and that appears to be holding.

Of course, as mentioned, the FCC says it’ll give special scrutiny to situations where all stations in a market file to shut off analog broadcasts, so we’ll see if Dayton comes to their attention. We also don’t know what the DTV coupon redemption rates are in Dayton, another factor the FCC says it’ll look into…

CINCINNATI: And just down I-71 from Dayton, it appears that Cincinnati will be mostly an analog market.

Only Sinclair MyNetwork TV affiliate WSTR/64 and ThinkTV’s Cincinnati outlet, WPTO/14 Oxford, have filed the new form saying that they’ll shut off their analog channels on February 17th.

The Cincinnati market’s other major full-power broadcasters are, according to numerous reports, staying on in analog as a group.

But in one of those reports by Cincinnati Enquirer radio/TV guru John Kiesewetter:

Cincinnati’s five other stations — Channels 5, 9, 12, 19 and 48 — plus Oxford’s Channel 14 (operated by Ch. 16) — will continue broadcasting both analog and digital signals into spring.

The early termination forms filed by WPTO and WPTD appear to be the “new” forms set forth by the Thursday FCC public notice, and are time stamped as being filed late Thursday afternoon. We’ll see if ThinkTV keeps the analog going in Cincinnati while it shuts off analog in Dayton.

Trinity Broadcasting’s WKOI/43 Richmond IN is also not filing to transition next Tuesday. We’re not sure if the station is considered to be in the Cincinnati market or the Dayton market. We believe it operates as a Cincinnati station, though it can be seen in both markets…

ZANESVILLE: We weren’t aware of this, but WHIZ Media Group NBC affiliate WHIZ/18 has apparently been off the air on the analog side dating back to June 25, 2008, due to an equipment failure…

IN CLOSING: Again, the FCC is expected to provide a full list of the February 17/early analog shutoff stations. We’ll link it to the top of this item when we get it, or separately if it’s not released sometime today.

The above list is based on our own research of the FCC’s public database, with the assumption that all the pre-deadline early transition/analog shutoff findings have been processed there…

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