A growing list of TV stations across the country are fading to black to gauge the potential impact of the end of analog television. Several stations in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania will join the ranks of broadcasters taking analog signals dark to determine how viewers are affected, and to let them know what to do.
The Pennsylvania tests will ensue Nov. 17 at 6:25 p.m., in an effort announced by the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters:
“Participating stations will either cease operation on their analog transmitter, leaving the viewer with a snowy screen, or will broadcast a message to the effect that “if you are watching this message, you or your pay provider are not ready for Feb. 17, 2009--the date analog television ends.“ The test will last for 60 seconds.”
Stations in Erie, Johnstown, Altoona, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton will participate.
Twelve stations in and around Milwaukee momentarily will go dark at 5 p.m. Sept. 15, according to the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.
“Each of these stations will simulate the termination of analog broadcasting by removing the video signal that feeds the analog transmitter for 60 seconds, causing the screen to show simulated static with special instructions the viewer will need to know in order to receive a digital television broadcast signal in the future,” a WBA statement said.
Another Wisconsin station, WEAU-TV, the NBC affiliate owned by Gray Television, in Eau Clair, Wisc., said it would go dark tonight (Sept. 4). The station“s Web site said it would turn off the analog signal for 30 seconds at 5:59 p.m.
WEAU is making the test part of its local newscast, as are eight of the Pennsylvania stations as well as those in the Barrington Broadcasting Group. Barrington“s 21 stations also planned a test for this evening. Leo Henning, regional vice president of Barrington, coordinated the tests. After a brief blackout, Henning said “we will provide an extended segment in the newscast to tell people affected by the blackout what they will need to do to receive our stations after Feb. 17, 2009.”
Some stations, he said, will direct viewers to www.DTVanswers.com, the Web site maintained by the National Association of Broadcasters containing information about the DTV transition.
“Others will set up a phone bank for an hour after the broadcast,” Henning said. “All station switchboards are prepared with DTV answers during regular business hours.”
Henning said that viewers needing digital-to-analog converters would be directed to local consumer electronics dealers, “and some of those dealers will be featured guests on the extended news segment.”
Barrington owns stations across several Midwestern markets as well as New York, South Carolina and Michigan.
Stations in Florida, Las Vegas and North Carolina have previously conducted similar tests. Five stations in Wilmington, N.C. will power down their analog transmitters permanently Sept. 8 to provide a preview of the nationwide shutdown Feb. 17, 2009.
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