Local TV stations make the digital switch final by FridayJust in the nick of time.
By: Andy Greder, Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal
Just in the nick of time.
A minute before midnight Thursday, WDSE-TV Channel 8 plans to stop transmitting its analog broadcast signal and, about an hour later, will broadcast its digital signal only.
The last-minute switch puts the Duluth PBS station in line with other local TV stations ahead of the Friday deadline for the switch from analog signals to digital. The deadline was extended from February so the federal government could provide more money for a program allowing consumers to purchase coupons for converter boxes.
On Friday, older, non-digital TV sets will lose all major channels unless they have an antenna and a converter box that allows them to accept digital signals, or if they are hooked up to cable or satellite.
Most local stations are ready to transmit digitally. The stations that previously made the switch to digital and are operating at full power are WDIO Channel 10 and KQDS Channel 21 in Duluth, and WIRT Channel 13 and WRPT Channel 31 in Hibbing.
“We are at full power with the final antenna in place,” said Dave Poirier, operations manager for WDIO and WIRT. “We are done. There is nothing more we plan to do.”
KBJR Channel 6 and KDLH Channel 3 were making improvements to their tower on Tuesday to meet the deadline, according to their shared Web site.
Switching to digital will increase the coverage area for WDSE and WRPT to outlying areas such as Tower, Hill City, Bayfield, Ashland and Hinckley, said Rex Greenwell, the director of engineering for the stations.
“We’re going to add 10 kilometers and be wider than analog now,” Greenwell said. “We’re excited our coverage area is going to grow.”
About 3.1 million U.S. homes were unprepared to receive digital signals as of late last month, according to the Nielsen Co. That’s half the number that were unprepared in February, and the number probably will decline further by Friday, as procrastinators get around to replacing old TVs or hooking them up to converter boxes or cable or satellite service.
One thing viewers will need to do is tell their converter boxes and digital TV sets to “re-scan” the airwaves to find channels that will move to new frequencies Friday.
Even if a set is correctly hooked up to a converter box and a good antenna, many stations that already are being received digitally will disappear when they move to new channels.
WDSE, for example, is moving from UHF Channel 38 to VHF Channel 8.
The biggest remaining problem for viewers is which antenna works best with the converter box, Poirier said.
He said the best ones are the old rabbit-ear or loop antennas.
“When someone calls, we find out what they’ve got and make suggestions,” Poirier said. “We’re able to resolve the issue immediately.”
Get ready digital viewers
A last-chance tutorial for viewers, “DTV Transition Survival Guide,” will air at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on WDSE. Questions also can be answered on the government hot line at (888) 388-2009 or at WDIO at (218) 727-6864.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.