Nine new stations make DTV transition

The NAB said that as of last week, nine more television stations have begun transmitting a digital signal, bringing the current total of commercial and public broadcasters to 518. Three of the new digital stations are Public Broadcast Service (PBS) member stations, which are not mandated to go on air with DTV until May 1 2003.

WHEC-DT is using a Harris Diamond Digital solid-state transmitter to broadcast upconverted NTSC programming 24 hours a day. The station went on the air September 27.

Of the nine new DTV stations, five are the first in their market to broadcast in digital, including NBC affiliate WHEC-DT in Rochester N.Y. John Walsh, director of engineering at WHEC-DT said the station went on the air September 27. They’re using a Harris Diamond Digital solid-state transmitter, at 38 kW ERP to broadcast upconverted NTSC programming 24 hours a day.

Walsh said there are no plans to pass through HDTV at this point and widescreen is also a future consideration. For WHEC-DT, the biggest challenge to getting on the air was money. It cost the station nearly $450,000, including the transmitter and a Dielectric antenna.

Alluding to the FCC’s desire to take back channels outside the core (channels 2 to 51) for auction sometime after 2006, Walsh said, “Since we’re outside the core channels [they ’re on channel 58], we see absolutely no intelligent reason to build a full-power facility.”

The station had planned to go on the air on May 1, the FCC’s deadline for commercial stations, but several tower construction issues hindered them. The tower is located about 1.6 miles from the station, in the middle of Rochester.

WHEC-DT is the first station in its market to broadcast DTV, so digital set sales have been minimal, according to Walsh. “As far as I know, there’s one here at the station, and it looks pretty good,” he said, adding that the local retail stores are not selling digital receivers due to inadequate sales personnel and a lack of available DTV programming in Rochester (DMA #77).

The other new DTV stations include: KYMA Yuma, Ariz.(market No. 172); KAAL Rochester, Minn. (market No. 152); KRGV Weslaco, Tex. (market No. 97); PBS station WUNJ Wilmington, NC (market No. 144); PBS station WVPY Front Royal, Va. (market No. 8); PBS station WVUT Vincennes, Ind. (market No. 146); KHWB Houston, Tex. (market No. 11); and WAFF Huntsville, Ala. (market No. 83).

The NAB said DTV signals are now being transmitted in 153 markets that include 91.9 percent of U.S. TV households. In addition, 46 percent of U.S. TV households are in markets where broadcasters are delivering four or more DTV signals.

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