FCC grants Atlantic City station WWAC-TV request to turn off NTSC

While many stations are resisting the transition to digital television, in the supposed hopes of holding on to their analog spectrum for as long as possible, one station has asked the FCC for permission to shut off its analog transmitter and go digital now.

The station’s request to end commercial analog broadcasts before the mandated 2006 shut-off date for NTSC is the first of its kind in the U.S.

When asked whether the move was designed to secure must-carry with the local cable operators, both the station’s general manager and its owner issued an emphatic ‘No comment.”

The Commission’s Mass Media Bureau has approved a petition by Lenfest Broadcasting to cease analog broadcasting of its commercial station WWAC-TV Atlantic City, NJ, on NTSC channel 53 and operate WWAC-DT as a single channel, digital-only television station on DTV Channel 44.

By going exclusively digital, the local cable operator (in this case Comcast) might be forced to carry WWAC-DT, thereby giving WWAC-DT access to approximately 1.8 million viewers in nearby Philadelphia. WWAC's digital transmission tower is located 35 miles closer to Philadelphia than its Atlantic City analog tower, which reaches only 575,000 cable subscribers. A station representative said that roughly 2,677 households watch TV off the air in their market.

WWAC-DT is a full-power UHF station broadcasting in digital with a Thales Broadcast dual-IOT digital transmitter, operating at 200 kW ERP. Under the FCC’s Sept. 24 ruling, WWAC may cease analog transmission at any time and serve the public only with its digital service, which began broadcasting a DTV signal in August.

After surrendering its analog license, WWAC can request that local cable operators carry its digital signal in analog. The station would have to supply the cable headend with digital-to-analog-conversion equipment, enabling analog TV viewers to continue to watch the broadcasts.

Station management said no decision had been made as to when WWAC-TV’s analog transmitter would be turned off.

For more information visit www.wwac.tv/.

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