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FCC Chairman Updates Congress on Wilmington Analog Shutdown

Readers looking for a summary of impact on viewers from the Wilmington, N.C., early analog shutdown may find FCC Chairman Martin's written statement to the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Sept. 16 interesting.

In the statement, the Chairman notes the FCC received a total of 1,828 calls regarding the test, representing 1 percent of Wilmington households. Considering research that showed approximately 14,000 households depended on off-air reception, this would represent more than 10 percent of the off-air viewers! This is in a market where there were extensive educational efforts and only 91 of the 1,828 callers didn't realize the DTV transition was coming.

Of those 1,828 calls, 553 came from viewers who lost access to the NBC affiliate, WECT. That station's analog coverage area is significantly different than its digital coverage. WECT moved its digital transmitter closer to Wilmington in order to provide a better signal in the market, but lost coverage in areas outside the market. The statement includes a map showing the difference in analog vs. digital coverage as well as the contours of other NBC stations outside the market.

The statement also discusses battery-operated converter boxes and the success that Wilmington station engineers had in working with Winegard to create a DTV converter box with a battery pack. I was surprised to see that in this and other discussions about the lack of battery-powered DTV receivers no one mentioned the availability of low-cost (less than $50) USB ATSC tuners that can plug into a battery-operated notebook computer.

For additional information, see Martin's written statement and the associated Appendix, WECT Digital and Analog Service Contours, WECT Digital and Analog Service Contours with Nearby NBC Affiliates, and total call volume by date.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.