WITN, along with many other television stations across North Carolina, conducted a DTV “Soft Test” on Wednesday night. Even though this was a “soft” test, not everyone got a passing grade.
Wednesday, December 17th was chosen as the test date because that date marks the 2 month and counting point towards the end of analog television broadcasting. On February 17, 2009 we will be required to shut off WITN-TV analog and broadcast only on WITN-DT, our digital station.
So, at 6:27pm on the 17th we aired our normal commercial break on WITN-DT. At the same time, on WITN-TV analog we aired a 2-minute warning message, telling those viewers that were seeing the message that they were watching the analog signal and that signal will cease broadcasting on February 17th. Some of the people seeing this message were watching use using an antenna. Some of the people that saw this message were cable or satellite customers and this worried them.
Most people that get their local television stations from a cable or satellite operator have nothing to worry about. Those companies are well aware of the Federal Communications Commission mandate that local broadcasters cease analog transmissions on February 17th. The cable and satellite companies will need to install digital receiving equipment to continue offering WITN-TV on their analog service. You should not have to buy digital cable to get WITN’s digital signal.
So why did some cable and satellite customers see our warning message? Because some cable and satellite companies in eastern North Carolina have not switched to WITN’s digital signal, yet.
If you’re a DISH NETWORK customer, you’re watching WITN-DT. If you subscribe to DIRECTV, you’re not. DIRECTV has told us that they plan to start reception and retransmission of digital signals in eastern North Carolina sometime in January, 2009. So let’s wait and see what happens next month when we run another DTV “soft test”.
On the cable side of the issue, SUDDENLINK CABLE is retransmitting our digital signal to most of the systems in our coverage area while TIME WARNER and MEDIACOM are not. After a follow-up with TIME WARNER CABLE we learned that they had the digital receivers installed, they only needed written permission to proceed with the use of this signal. They flipped the switch on Friday.
Most of the other operators have contacted us and indicated that they have ordered digital receivers and are planning to make the switch soon. As long as they get the equipment installed and operational by February 17th you should have no worries.
Now we also heard from quite a few people that watch WITN-TV by way of an antenna. Most seemed aware of the change that’s coming, and understood that they would need a digital converter, but had not gotten around to buy the converter or did not know where to buy a converter.
Please don’t wait! You can still request up to two (2) $40 rebate coupons from the government, but it takes a few weeks for these orders to be processed and mailed. Go to www.dtv2009.gov or call them at 1-888-DTV-2009 to request your coupons. These coupons look like a red credit card. Take the coupon to the store, hand it to the clerk and once they swipe your card $40 comes off the price of the box.
Converter boxes are available at most any retailer that sells television sets including, Wal Mart, Sears, K-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City and Radio Shack.
They are easy to install, just like a VCR or DVD player. Plug your antenna lead into the converter box and then run the extra cable to your television’s antenna/cable input and set the TV set on channel 3 or 4. You can also run those red-white-yellow RCA cables to one of the video inputs on your set, just remember to set the television on the Video1 or Video2 input selection.
One thing that you should notice immediately is a dramatic improvement in the picture quality. Digital delivers a sharper, clearer picture. Hopefully you will be watching this picture next time we air a DTV “Soft Test” and will miss the next warning message.