Moving Back For Some Stations

This was supposed to be the last week of full-power analog TV in the United States, but of course, that’s not happening now.

We have a Digital TV Status Update for two Ohio markets affected by the FCC’s new rules about February 17th shutoffs…but stay tuned, there may be other items…we’re working on one piece of big radio news that, unfortunately, continues our ongoing theme…

The FCC’s most recent public notice about February 17th analog TV shutoffs did indeed focus a spotlight on markets like Dayton, where all four “Big Four” network affiliates had intended to say goodbye to analog on Tuesday.

At this writing, it appears two of those stations are sticking with their decision, and two are not.

The two “Early Switch As Far As We Know” Dayton stations would be LIN NBC affiliate WDTN/2 and Cox CBS affiliate WHIO/7.

OMW reader Rich Emery in Hamilton pointed his antenna north to see Dayton stations, and tells us WDTN once again affirmed during a noon newscast today that it was shutting down analog 2 in four days, the original deadline.

Rich tells us both WDTN and WHIO are still running the “frequent crawls” required to notify viewers that analog service is ending on February 17th, much like Canton-licensed WOAC/67 is doing up here.

WHIO has been touting its program allowing viewers to donate unused government $40 DTV coupons and converter boxes, and ran a DTV switch special last night.

Though we expect both stations to file by today’s deadline, touting such education efforts, their job may have been made easier by a competitor.

Sinclair has decided to keep analog signals going until June 12th on both ABC affiliate WKEF/22 and Fox affiliate WRGT/45, according to an announcement posted in both text and video form on “DaytonsNewsSource.com”:

DAYTON- Dayton’s News Source wants to give you more time to get ready for the switch to digital television. FOX 45 & ABC 22 are already broadcasting a digital section. We will continue to also provide our traditional analog signal until June 12.

Even if you don’t normally watch news video, watch this one. You can almost hear the exasperation in the voices of the station’s reporter, and senior engineer Richard King. (“Do you think it’s conceivable that someone’s out there who hasn’t heard of this yet?”)

With WKEF and WRGT dropping out of the February 17th sweepstakes, we can’t imagine that WDTN and WHIO would still get resistance from the FCC…which was primarily concerned with the loss of analog service by all four full-power network affiliates.

Even if the FCC is still pushing for those other educational conditions for those stations filing today to go next Tuesday, the two Dayton channels have fallen all over themselves with DTV education – including sending reporters to homes at random helping viewers hook up digital TV boxes, and the aforementioned coupon/converter box donation program.

So, it’s not official until accepted…and things have changed in this mess…but it looks like WDTN and WHIO are headed off the analog airwaves in Dayton, along with CW affiliate WBDT/26 and PBS affiliate WPTD/16…

STEUBENVILLE DROPS OUT: OMW readers point us to an update on the website of Cox NBC affiliate WTOV/9 Steubenville…which has blinked in the face of the new FCC rules and says it’ll make the switch in June.

The wording on the station’s update is interesting:

After a decade of preparation, WTOV9 will delay its analog broadcast shut off that was planned for Feb. 17, 2009. This comes after congressional action was taken to delay the switch until June 2009.

Though there is a provision that allows stations to request to shut off their analog signal on the original February date, WTOV9’s request with the FCC has been denied.

The FCC cited that though WTOV9 is fully ready to make the switch, not enough of its viewers are ready. This is despite hundreds of public services announcements the station aired in the past year, special 30-minute programs that were broadcasted and a report that said 97 percent of households were aware of the Feb. 17 analog shutoff date.

We’re not experts when it comes to the FCC, but if that denial made it to electronic form on the FCC’s public CDBS database, we can’t find it…or any direct reference to “not enough viewers” being ready.

But no matter – they were basically forced into moving anyway, since both stations in the two-station Wheeling/Steubenville market filed to go off early.

Maybe the station saw the new conditions for the Tuesday switch, and figured out they wouldn’t be able to meet them – particularly technically, as WTOV will switch to digital channel 9 facilities whenever they’re allowed to do so.

WTOV references this in the item:

By delaying the switch to all digital, some WTOV9 viewers who have already purchased new digital televisions will have to wait longer to receive the station’s digital signal or receive a clearer picture, because the station is unable to broadcast at a high digital signal. When the total transition is complete, WTOV9’s signal will reach 10 percent more viewers – meaning the signal will reach about 3.5 million.

We haven’t found an update on the plans by West Virginia Media CBS affilate WTRF/7 Wheeling.

WTRF’s Digital TV page still has the generic countdown to February 17th, along with that date listed, but it could well have just not been changed…and we can’t find any news stories about the date

However, West Virginia Media has filed to take all of its stations off analog early, and our gut tells us that they’ll stick with it if they’re allowed to do so.

We presume WTOV’s decision makes that more likely in the Wheeling/Steubenville market, which raises the prospect of a one-analog, one-digital-only market for at least two months.

That could change as soon as April, quoting the WTOV item again:

Though the new nationwide date to go all digital is set for June 12, 2009, the FCC could grant WTOV9 to begin its all-digital broadcast sooner. WTOV9 will notify its viewers at least 30 days prior to its analog shutoff, as required by the FCC.

Indeed, the window starting March 14, for an analog shutoff in April, is one option for some of the stations we list here.

For the moment, we’re not even going to begin to guess how the FCC and its commissioners will feel about a second now-early transition move by stations…

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