Phil Kurz /
06.18.2009 10:44 AM
Stations cite different reasons for staying on in analog

In the days leading up to the DTV transition, 43 stations that originally had notified the FCC of their plans to switch off their analog transmitters Feb. 17 withdrew their requests, remaining obligated to continue analog over-the-air service for the foreseeable future.

The individual reasons cited seem to be as varied as the stations involved. For WHIO-TV, the Miami Valley Broadcasting-owned CBS affiliate, in Dayton, OH, the reason for withdrawing came down to the extensive requirements to make the switch Feb. 17, enumerated in a Feb. 11 FCC public notice, said Harry Delaney, station vice president and general manager.

“The public notice added a lot of criteria to stay with the Feb. 17 DTV transition date,” said Delaney. According to Delaney, the stations in Dayton had made “a united decision” to transition on Feb. 17. As a result, WHIO had scheduled a fixed date to do the change-out of its transmission infrastructure, which is going to require replacing both its analog transmitter and antenna. When the government moved the transition date, the station contacted its suppliers and learned the postponement added a degree of flexibility to the availability of crews, said Delaney.

While that flexibility made the decision to continue analog service until May 3 a bit easier, delaying the move to DTV is not without its negatives. “The risk we have is with the digital side-mount antenna,” said Delaney. “Even with full-power, there is a segment of the audience that can’t get our digital signal.” By postponing replacement of that side-mount antenna with its permanent top-mount antenna until May, the station expects to see its March and May ratings books negatively impacted compared to other stations in the market that have made the DTV transition.

According to Jay Huizenga, general manager of KDLO-TV, which covers northeast South Dakota, complying with the FCC requirements to proceed with the DTV conversion Feb. 17 was too onerous so the station will continue transmitting its analog signal on Channel 3. Unfortunately for KDLO, the station took down its temporary digital antenna and transmitter Jan 12 in anticipation of commencing full power digital service Feb. 17 on Channel 3. As a result, KDLO-TV will be without a digital presence in the market until June 12 when its full-power digital transmission will take the place of its analog signal on Channel 3. “We would like to have a digital signal in that area of the state,” he said. “But as it stands, that won’t happen until mid-June.”

WTVA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Tupelo, MS, withdrew its request to transition Feb. 17 because of the large number of viewers in its market that were unready for the DTV transition, said station general manager Phil Sullivan.

According to Sullivan, WTVA has the strongest, largest coverage pattern in the DMA, and a large part of Mississippi would have been left uncovered if it moved forward with a Feb. 17 transition. “So it was in our best interest and everyone’s to stay on in analog,” he said.

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