THIS JUST IN: WJW/8 Likely Headed To UHF Soon

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…


11 Responses to THIS JUST IN: WJW/8 Likely Headed To UHF Soon

  1. Jim Nuznoff says:

    I went to the trouble to build a VHF yagi cut to channel 9’s wavelength, in order to receive both WJW (rf 8) and WOIO (rf 10) when the digital switching was finalized. The yagi works well but I would just as soon retire it and replace it with a UHF antenna aimed at Cleveland (which I currently do not have) to maximize my reception of the rest of the signals coming out of that city. Thanks for the update!

  2. Tim says:

    I wonder when WRAP-LP will go ota now? It may have a lot of subchannels but best reception should be in Cuyahoga County. I remember reading somewhere they wanted to change their transmitter site from downtown Cleveland to the Parma farm antenna area.

  3. Derrick King says:

    One correction to your story. The antenna will be located at a height of 317 METERS, or 1040 feet. All FCC and FAA documents refer to meters as the universal length measurment for tower height.

    Any Parma antenna located at 317 FEET likely won’t reach out beyond 30 miles in our terrain.

  4. This is the first time I’m hearing of the existence of a “WRAP”. What is that?

    • Tim says:

      WRAP-CA was a low power television station based in the downtown Cleveland area. They have not yet gone digital and have apparently reduced power. They showed Corner Store infomercials on their main signal. I assume once they go digital, they will have ability to pick up subchannels. The station will probably primarily cover Cuyahoga County under WRAP-LP. Only other low power to go digital is WCDN Daystar on 53.

  5. Trip Ericson says:

    Canadian coordination really should be a non-issue, as the FCC-IC LOU (Letter of Understanding) contains the channel 31 allotment with the facilities that WJW had prior to the transition. This petition is for essentially the same facilities but a drop of power from 625 kW to 600 kW, and my guess for the rationale behind that is to ensure Canadian concurrence, since the allotment is already there.

    You can see the allotments contained in the LOU on this page on RabbitEars:

  6. RAL says:

    I live in line with the Cuyahoga County Airport Runway which is 240 degrees. Unfortunately, the main Cleveland “cluster” is also about 240 degrees for my location. TV-8 on VHF is the ONLY channel that does not drop out when the planes fly in, and never drops out at all. I suppose once they change frequencies I will start getting dropouts on “8” as well.. Pointing the Yagi at the cluster does not help, so I leave it at about 185 degrees and also get solid reception of WDLI (“17”) and WAEO (“49”).

    I find the channel move amusing, because if the “broadband” lobbyists succeed, the government will take away another block of UHF channels to auction off, and force more stations back to VHF, and also force more “close spacing” on co-channels. And of course “close-spacing” and “VHF” do not work well together.

    I am also amazed that the OTA stations do not get together to let the non-OTA people know more about what is being broadcast on the subchannels. The Plain Dealer should incude all that in their program guide Otherwise, the numbers of viewers will not increase, and Congress will continue to think “nobody is watching”. Of course they already think we are a bunch of “nobodies”. A whole generation of people now do not know that you can get TV for “free”. You would think in these hard economic times, more people would want to cancel their cable.

    For those OTA people out there who may not know this, Channel Master makes the PAL7000 DVR (Amazon $299) which allows you to be recording two programs simultaneously in full HD, while also watching palyback of another. It also has a build-in porgram guide which makes setting up the recording schedule a snap. I only wish they had larger hard drive options!

  7. Andrew Boggs says:

    Now if only WOIO TV 19 would change its frequency and up it’s power, we might be able to get their signal in Fairview Park and West Park…listening WOIO?

  8. Thompson says:

    Good article. Quick question for everyone….I’m located in Thompson, Ohio (Geauga County) and since the switch to digital we cannot get 1 single television station out of Cleveland…every once in awhile in the winter months we can get 1 or 2 out of Erie, PA but nothing in the summer. All of our tv watching now consists of watching Canada channels over the old analog antennas and we watch the online live stream of Fox 8 Cleveland news. We’re on a tight budget and can’t afford cable or dish tv. If it wasn’t for the internet, we would get absolutely zero Cleveland television news out my way. We’re not the only ones either and no one knows who to complain to or voice our concerns. Any suggestions who to contact?

    • Here’s the big downside of the digital transition – fringe areas are much harder to serve than they were in the analog era.

      There is one primary reason for that.

      Back in the analog days, you likely got a snowy picture out of the Cleveland stations, no? Still watchable, but there would likely be some amount of TV snow there.

      That does not exist in the digital era. Basically, when the signal strength goes down to a certain level, instead of snow, you lose the digital signal entirely due to the “cliff effect”. Either the station decodes, or it doesn’t. That’s the nature of digital TV…the signal you watched in analog with snow doesn’t exist period in digital.

      Most of the area’s digital signals are full-power and roughly approximate the station’s old analog coverage. (WJW Fox 8 and WOIO CBS 19 are the exceptions now, but WJW is about to return to its full-power UHF signal, and WOIO has a translator in the southern part of the market, which obviously doesn’t help you in Thompson.)

      But fringe areas are even more fringe than they were in analog thanks to the above, and unless the stations start putting up translators in Geauga County…which is probably somewhat unlikely due to the low population levels there compared to the heart of the market… And again, only WOIO has done that, for a highly populated area (Akron/Canton).

      Have you checked your TV tuner lately? You may just have lost many of those Canadian channels. Canada went through its own digital conversion at the end of September. CityTV (analog 31), CHCH (analog 51) and CBC (analog 40) are likely gone from Ohio now. The first two converted to digital, and CBC got a one year temporary move to a low-power analog 23 signal that isn’t getting here for obvious reasons.

      About the only solution not involving cable or satellite for you could be a very large antenna, probably not even on a roof, but on a tower next to your house. You can only imagine what that could cost, but it would be a one-time cost…and I’m not even sure that’d help you that far out.

      This is not a recommendation, as we haven’t used the place, but the folks at Cleveland Antenna may give you an idea of what it might take to get Cleveland OTA signals out there:

      Again, we’ll warn you…it probably won’t be remotely close to being cheap, but it would be a one-time cost as opposed to the ongoing costs of cable/satellite.

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