One Fourth of Stations Plan to End Analog ‘On Time’

According to FCC files, 421 of the nation’s television broadcasters are planning to reign in analog transmissions on, or slightly before, the previously set Feb. 17 midnight deadline. With the additional 220 that have already shut off analog, the amount of all-digital stations on Feb. 18 will total 641, representing approximately 36 percent of all full-power U.S. telecasters.

The commission, in a press release issued Feb. 16, said that it, along with broadcasters and others, was doing everything possible to try and prepare Americans for the partial demise of their off-air television service that is occurring.

“This is not just about whether people can watch their favorite reality show,” said Michael Copps, acting FCC Chairman. “It’s about whether consumers have access to vital emergency alerts, weather, news and public affairs.”

The Feb. 17 date for ending analog service had been cast in stone for several years, following the withdrawal of an earlier deadline set for Dec. 21, 2006, but was recently extended until June 12 this year.

In checking the Web sites of some of the stations today, the DTV transition countdown clock, which was originally supposed to reach zero out this evening, was already showing triple “goose eggs.” One of these was WSAZ-TV, the NBC affiliate in Huntington, W.Va. Instead, it proclaimed “No More Analog Transmission!” A banner message read, “IMPORTANT DTV NOTE: WSAZ made the transition to digital TV on Monday, 2/16.”

Aaron Withrow, WSAZ-TV’s chief engineer, reported that the response from the viewing community response has not overwhelmed the station’s resources. He added, however, that a statewide call center had been set up to field viewer inquiries.

“We’re actively intercepting and forwarding calls to the center,” Withrow said. “We’ve been using that number on our nightlight signal. However, we don’t have any report back as to the number of calls.”

Pintech Corp. a Wilmington, N. C. firm, has been contracted by the FCC to assist in West Virginia DTV transition efforts and is taking those calls. Its West Virginia state manager, Clint Goodwin, reported while he had noticed a spike in calls starting last night and continuing into today, he didn’t have an exact number.

“Yesterday we were really active,” Goodwin said. “More people than usual came into center and we got more calls. People apparently knew what was going to happen.”

Goodwin added that part of the DTV outreach program in West Virginia involves performing demonstrations throughout the state about how to hook up and scan converter boxes. He said that due to the higher than normal number of calls anticipated this week, these demos were being cancelled through this Friday.

WSAZ-TV’s Withrow reported that an FCC representative had traveled to WSAZ-TV in anticipation of the early shutoff and would be there for another two days or so.

Another Charleston/Huntington television station, CBS affiliate WOWK-TV, has been transmitting exclusively in digital for some time, as the FCC gave it the green light to do so when the station’s analog transmitter failed. WCHS-TV, ABC for the market, and WVAH-TV, the Fox affiliate, still remain in both analog and digital.