UPDATE 12/6/11 6:23 PM: If you’re just seeing this notice, we’ve added one more update we forgot…at the end of this item…
We have some “facilities” items up front, and a nice mix of non-technical stuff after that. Scroll down for the latter…
THE WBNX FLY IN WJW’S OINTMENT: We breathlessly reported here recently that the Federal Communications Commission had issued an “NPRM” (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) that would clear the way for Local TV LLC Fox affiliate WJW/8 in Cleveland to return to the promised land they once occupied on the TV spectrum – UHF channel 31.
Viewers all over the immediate Cleveland/Akron area, including right here at OMW World Headquarters, have been struggling with WJW’s post-transition signal on VHF channel 8, particularly with modest indoor antennas that can pick up pretty much every other station in the market with little difficulty. Before the transition, WJW’s UHF 31 signal “just worked”, as the saying goes.
We expected a speedy timeline for WJW’s return to RF channel 31, if there were no roadblocks.
Cross-town Winston Broadcasting CW affiliate WBNX/55 has just put one of those potential roadblocks up.
In a response to the NPRM (PDF download) filed November 23rd, WBNX notes, among other things, that WJW hasn’t turned to solutions it has already pursued with the FCC:
WJW is licensed to operate on Channel 8 at 11 kW ERP….WJW holds a valid construction permit to increase its ERP to 30 kW. There is no indication that WJW has attempted to operate at the authorized power increase, an increase which, logically, may resolve some or all of WJW’s concerns.
Moreover, WJW has pending at the Commission two applications for digital replacement translators, which the station apparently intended to use to resolve precisely the reception issues for which it now seeks a more dramatic and deleterious solution.
It is unclear precisely why WJW has (apparently) decided to abandon its earlier well conceived plans to increase power, directionalize its signal, and fill-in with digital replacement translators.
The Petition and Supplement are virtually silent on this issue, observing only that WJW already has the equipment necessary to begin operations on Channel 31. This sounds like little more than a cost-saving measure, which is either ironic or entirely predictable given the fact that WJW is ultimately owned by a private equity firm and is commonly held with attributable interests in approximately 20 other full power television stations across the country.
In the filing with the FCC, WBNX’s engineers believe the station will lose a few thousand viewers (just under 3,000 households) with WJW back at RF 30, even though the two stations co-existed as adjacent channel neighbors pre-transition.
The response notes that any pre-transition viewers who may have lost WBNX-DT reception on RF 30 had analog 55 as a backup.
WBNX also tries to throw water on WJW’s claims that the digital move to 8 lost it ratings, even going so far as to cite an article by the Plain Dealer’s Julie Washington blaming the loss on Cleveland’s move to live people meter technology.
Oh, and our favorite part of the WBNX filing is at the end of this quote:
“The petitioner’s arguments are unpersuasive and its data unreliable. Moreover, WJW has not attempted to resolve its coverage issues by alternative solutions-for which it already has the authority-that would not interfere with WBNX’s signal. WJW’s proposal should be denied, or, at a minimum, the Commission should defer consideration of the proposal until after a reasonable time to determine more definite data about the impact of the proposed substitution.
Or, perhaps it is an effort to jockey for position for prime UHF real estate in the event of a spectrum auction and repacking.”
As far as we can tell, Local TV LLC (indeed, owned by equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners) is an operating concern, and is not one of the players trying to acquire UHF spectrum for future sell-off.
Engineers we’ve talked with tell us there’s a problem with WJW increasing to 30 kW on VHF 8, as specified in their construction permit – it could present problems with Lima NBC affiliate WLIO, now on 8, and much of the signal increase would bathe the fishes in Lake Erie, not viewers south of the station’s Parma transmitter site.
Furthermore, the applied-for UHF fill-in translators, licensed to Canton and Austintown but mostly serving eastern Portage County, would do absolutely nothing for in-market Akron and Canton viewers. Unless you’re east of, say, Ravenna, they’d do nothing for you.
Raycom CBS affiliate WOIO/19 has mostly solved that problem, at least in Summit County and parts of northern Stark County, with its RF 24 digital fill-in translator in the Akron antenna farm…but the proposed WJW facilities would be far from the population center of the market. And WOIO could use a marketwide change/upgrade as well…particularly for those suffering from on-channel signal CFPL/10 London, Ontario, Canada booming across Lake Erie.
In its filing, WBNX appears to realize that the WJW application could well be approved, and offers an alternative:
In the event the Commission is inclined to grant WJW’s Petition, WBNX respectfully requests any such grant be conditioned on the results of an extended test period during which WJW would have authority to operate Channel 31 on a test basis. (The Petition and Supplement suggest that WJW already has the Channel 31 equipment on-site and installed, as a remnant of the station’s dual-channel operations during the digital transition period. Thus, as a practical matter, testing should be feasible.)
By doing so, the stations would be positioned to work together (and with the Commission Staff as warranted) to measure, evaluate, ascertain, and resolve interference instances of interference caused by WJW to WBNX viewers or, in the alternative, to demonstrate that the public interest harms are too great to permit WJW to make a permanent channel change.
We’re also wondering, for example, why WBNX did not object to WJW being granted pre-transition space on RF 31 oh-so-many years ago.
This filing could well mean that WJW won’t be able to light up on the UHF band by the end of the year, but we suspect it’ll only be a delay, not a deal breaker…
IT’S BACK?: An OMW reader in the Canton area says he has (apparently) heard the return of Pinebrook Corporation gospel WINW/1520 Canton, which has been silent for much of the year.
Oh, but don’t try to get the station if you’re straying far from Martindale Road or Canton’s northeast side.
Our reader tells us that as he was driving by WINW’s site, he heard a very weak signal playing gospel music, which disappeared less than two miles away.
There was no ID, he says, within that brief time. He says the signal was very weak directly in front of the Martindale Road transmitter site.
We noted earlier that WINW obtained a Special Temporary Authorization to return to the air, pending approval of its very, very late renewal application.
But we’re pretty sure that return would have to be at 1000 watts, not at a power enough to be lost past the convenience store down the street from WINW’s facility…
AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE UPPER END OF THE AM BAND: Two stations that are very much operating, to the east of Canton, have hired a new news voice.
Whiplash Radio standards WHTX/1570 Warren “Fabulous 1570” and its simulcaster, WYCL/1540 Niles, have added Alan Courtright as morning news anchor. Alan joined the stations on Monday morning.
The move is the latest to be made by LMA operators Jim Davison and Laurel Taylor, and we hear they’ve signed a renewal with Whiplash owner and OMW reader Chris Lash to run both of Lash’s Mahoning Valley stations, starting January 1st.
1570 and 1540 now simulcast for the duration of 1540’s daytime hours of operation, with 1540 splitting off from 10 AM to 2 PM weekdays for the talk show hosted by Louie B. Free…the only holdover from previous WYCL LMA operator Philip Cato’s “Talk of the Town” format.
Courtright, of course, is no stranger to radio news…and that’s not just because of his late father, veteran Cleveland radio news voice Ken Courtright, and sister Julie Courtright, now in the newsroom of Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 (a former radio home of her father).
Alan himself was doing radio news fairly recently, in a stint with Rubber City Radio’s WAKR/1590 Akron and its “AkronNewsNow” newsroom…
ANN’S CORNER: No, Kent State University NPR outlet WKSU/89.7 Kent-and-its-simulcasters marketing and public relations guru Ann VerWiebe doesn’t pay us for “Ann’s Corner”…though she is very much a Friend of OMW.
But the local public radio outlet is busy again, so here’s a summary of stuff Ann has passed along to us:
* Detroit radio veteran Matt Watroba, who joined WKSU-based FolkAlley.com as a producer and part-time host, is now a daily host on the folk music stream (5-7 AM and noon-2 PM). Watroba came to Folk Alley after a 22 year-stint on WDET in Detroit hosting the show “Folks Like Us”, displaced by a format change. He’ll also do the “AlleyCast” podcast, and like most radio folks in 2011, encourages interaction via social media…
* WKSU guest contributor, poet/author/educator George Bilgere will be a guest on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” this Saturday (12/10). The show airs on WKSU Saturday evenings live from 6-8 PM, and repeats Sundays at 10 AM. It also airs in its Saturday live time slot on Ideastream’s WCPN/90.3 in Cleveland, and other “PHC” affiliates nationwide…
* Public radio isn’t immune to marking the holidays, and WKSU is no exception. The station is streaming classical and folk all-seasonal music at WKSU.org. And beginning Monday, December 12th, the holiday streams will migrate to HD Radio – on WKSU HD2’s Folk Alley and WKSU HD3’s Classical HD sidechannels. A complete list of holiday programming on the main WKSU signals can be found here…
BROWNS LOCATOR: Given the way the NFL’s Cleveland Browns are playing this year, the team might prefer hiding from local TV viewers.
But there’s a prime time game scheduled for this week – the team’s traditional clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And since it’s a Thursday night contest, it’ll air on the NFL Network – itself doing a pretty good job of hiding from local cable TV viewers.
Regular readers know that the NFL requires cable/satellite networks to sell those games to local TV outlets in the two cities involved, and thus, Thursday’s NFL Network Browns/Steelers game will also air on WJW/8 “Fox 8”.
The station plans what appears to be an hour-long pregame show as well…