If you’re an over-air TV viewer tired of not being able to receive Fox programming or local news from Local TV LLC WJW/8 Cleveland’s “Fox 8 News”, here is some GOOD news.
Your long, regional TV nightmare is nearly over.
That’s because the FCC has weighed in on WJW’s request to move its over-air signal from RF channel 8, to its pre-transition UHF channel of 31…off the trouble-plagued VHF band.
In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released Tuesday, the agency says it is in favor of the move, saying it “warrants consideration”. You can read the notice here (PDF document).
In it, Community Television of Ohio – the local licensing arm of Local TV LLC – makes very clear what we’ve frequently reported here since the digital transition started:
Community Television states that it is seeking the channel substitution because after it terminated analog service on June 12, 2009, and began digital-only operations on its post-transition VHF channel, “a sizeable number of the Station’s viewers could not receive the Station’s over-the-air
signal, and many apparently still cannot.”
According to Community Television, “Viewers throughout the service area have complained about reception difficulties, and, consistent with viewer ratings, many of these complaints come from areas southeast of the Station’s transmitter.”
Community Television also notes that viewers reporting difficulty receiving WJW(TV) invariably report that they have no difficulty receiving the UHF stations in the area.
The FCC ruling agrees, and proposes substituting channel 31 for channel 8 in the Cleveland TV allocation tables, with a new facility on 31 for 600 kW at 317
feet meters…a very similar setup to what WJW had before June 2009, when it moved its digital facilities to the former channel it long used in analog, 8.
The NPRM states that there shouldn’t be many problems on the WJW end, equipment-wise, for the return to 31:
Community Television has selected channel 31 because this was its pre-transition digital channel and it has retained much of the channel 31 transmission equipment.
The bottom line – if you got WJW-DT fine before June 2009, you’ll likely get it again after this is all approved.
And yes, even though the underlying “channel” after this will be 31, something called “PSIP” will continue to identify WJW on your tuner as 8, just as with the other local stations – WKYC, for example, is RF channel 17, but shows up on digital tuners as “3” even now.
And every other TV station in the Cleveland market, save for WVPX/23 (which flash cut on channel 23), is in the same situation.
PSIP is a data stream alongside the digital signal that basically tells your tuner, “yeah, I know we’re on channel 31, but we’re really still 8, display it as 8” as a “virtual channel”.
It’s the same reason WOIO is on RF channel 10 (main) and 24 (Akron-based translator), but still shows up as “19” from either facility…and ditto with Western Reserve PBS WNEO/45 Alliance’s Youngstown translator (W44CR-D) on RF 44.
So, you’re asking, enough of this “PSIP” stuff…when will I be able to watch “Fox 8” on my over-air tuner?
We dug into the process with the help of one of our regular technical advisers, long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush of NorthEast Radio Watch. (And if you haven’t subscribed to NERW, now would be a good time to do so!)
Scott tells us that the process may not take all that long.
By the time a proposal like this gets to NPRM status, it’s basically the FCC saying “we’re going to do this, unless someone has a good reason why we shouldn’t.”
Comments are due 30 days after it appears in the Federal Register (so, probably, about 6 weeks from now), reply comments 45 days after (so, about 8 weeks from now) – and once those are in, the FCC will give WJW the go-ahead and it can flip the switch on the 31 transmitter that’s presumably still in the building in Parma.
Scott notes that if all is in place, WJW could be back on the UHF band by the end of the year.
The one unknown is “Canadian coordination”.
CityTV’s CITY-TV-2, a repeater for CITY-TV in Toronto, has long been blasting 1000 kW analog on UHF channel 31 from Woodstock, Ontario (near London) – a signal we’ve seen on our portable TV set along Ohio’s Lake Erie shore in the two years since WJW initially abandoned RF 31 for RF 8.
But the two stations co-existed for years before the U.S. digital TV transition.
And Canada has completed its own digital TV transition, at least the first major phase – where stations in “mandatory markets”, such as London, have to convert to digital. (Well, aside from the CBC in London and some other markets, which got a year extension, but that’s another story.)
We’ve done some digging, and it appears that CITY-TV-2 did indeed convert from 1000 kW analog to 20 kW (!) digital at the end of last month.
With WJW’s historic presence on RF 31 pre-transition, co-existing with CityTV’s much more powerful analog Woodstock facility for years, it’s quite possible all is OK with Canadian coordination.
But the big move that allowed the FCC to green light the WJW move was much closer to home.
From the FCC NPRM notice:
At the time it was filed, Community Television’s proposed channel 31 facility caused impermissible interference to the facilities proposed in a pending digital flash-cut application for Class A television station WRAP-CA, channel 32, Cleveland, Ohio. By letter dated September 1, 2011, D.T.V. LLC, the licensee of WRAP-CA, notified the Commission that it was surrendering its Class A status and asked that the station revert to low power television status. As a secondary low power television station, WRAP-LP is no longer entitled to interference protection. Thus, Community Television’s proposal now complies with the Commission’s interference protection rules.
We don’t know for sure, but we suspect WRAP-CA came to some sort of deal with WJW, perhaps with “Fox 8” offering to help pay for the small station’s digital conversion. That’s just a guess on our part.
We’re affected by all this here at OMW World Headquarters.
Though our primary source of local TV signals is Time Warner Cable, we had a TWC outage at a very bad time for us – Sunday evening, 15 minutes before one of the few shows we take time out to watch, CBS’ “The Amazing Race”.
We were able to see that show, thanks to WOIO’s new RF 24 translator on the WVPX/WONE tower near the remnants of Akron’s Rolling Acres Mall and our two digital over-air tuners.
But while waiting for Phil Keoghan to send off the “Amazing Race” teams to their next adventure, we flipped over to “Fox 8”, and have no idea what the Fox network was running, as we had a blank screen…