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Wilmington Stations to Keep Analog Transmitters Ready for Emergencies

As previously reported, TV stations in Wilmington, N.C., will be switching their full-power commercial broadcasting to DTV only at 12 noon on Sept. 8, ahead of the FCC-mandated DTV transition date.

In a news release issued Aug. 18, the FCC said that it will allow Wilmington TV stations to continue broadcasting in analog, but will limit the programming to noncommercial content on the DTV transition or emergency information. However, no full-power TV station, including those in Wilmington, will be allowed to continue analog transmission after Feb. 17, 2009.

I’ve heard discussions about allowing one or more analog TV stations in a market to remain on the air after the Feb. 17, 2009 transition to provide information on the transition. As there are only expected to be 36 low-VHF DTV stations on the air post-transition, using a low-VHF analog station to inform viewers about the DTV transition and provide information on the options for receiving DTV could be valuable. As very few battery operated portable DTV sets are currently available, having an analog channel available to broadcast emergency information could be a life saver in the event of an emergency.

While some broadcasters may be reluctant to spend the extra money to keep an analog signal on the air post-transition, the power cost is likely to be lowest for low-VHF analog stations. In my opinion, the FCC should consider allowing one or more analog stations in Wilmington, N.C., and other markets to continue broadcasting noncommercial DTV education information and emergency announcements for a few months after the Feb. 17, 2009, analog shut down.

Read more about Wilmington stations’ preparations for its test run here.

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.