Six Months and Counting

By: Michael Riddle
By: Michael Riddle

We are now six months away from the date when analog broadcasts of WITN will cease. The Federal Communications Commission has set February 17, 2009 as the date when all broadcasters MUST shut off their analog transmitters and broadcast in digital only.

The Digital Transition is coming and it's coming soon! WITN will be required to shut off our analog transmitter on February 17, 2009 and only broadcast on our digital transmitter. That means that you will no longer be able to receive our analog signal on VHF channel 7. As I said in the latest "Just Ask Mike" segment on WITN 7 News, if you receive WITN via cable or satellite, you have nothing to worry about. The cable and satellite companies have been preparing for the digital transition. They have been conducting tests and they are ready to receive our digital signal and then down-convert that signal and deliver it to you the same way that you are receiving it right now. The only difference is that you should notice that the picture looks clearer and sharper. A digital picture is almost perfect, duplicating the picture that we produce in our studio. So with digital you get 100% of our signal ... or you get nothing. There is no in-between... no noisy or fuzzy signal. The viewers that will be affected by the Digital Transition are those that watch WITN using a home antenna. Your older, analog television set will not be able to pick up WITN-DT (digital) unless you obtain a digital converter box. If you have a newer television, it's probably capable of tuning in digital broadcasts as the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) has been requiring manufacturers to build sets with digital tuners for a couple of years. The government is prepared to help you. They have established a TV Converter Box coupon program. Each household is entitled to two coupons. The coupons are worth $40 and with the average converter costing around $50 - $60 that lowers your cost to less than $20. You have to apply for the coupons and it takes a couple weeks for them to arrive in the mail, so don't wait! Since you are probably reading this on the Internet, that offers the easiest way to apply for a coupon. Go to the website and click on the link. You can fill in the blanks, hit the APPLY button and you are all set. If you would rather call, there is an 800 phone number, or you can write for an application and then mail or fax it in. Here are the links and addresses for TV Converter Box Coupons: web: phone: 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009) 1-877-388-4632 (For Deaf or Hard of Hearing callers) mail: P.O. Box 2000 Portland, OR 97208 I have gotten several e-mails from viewers talking about reception problems with the digital signals. Remember, with digital broadcasts you get a perfect picture or you get nothing at all. Here's my best rule of thumb for antenna reception: If you live within 20 - 25 miles of our transmitter in Grifton, then you will probably pick us up with an indoor (amplified) antenna. You may have to move the antenna around, depending upon the construction of your home... newer home construction sometimes blocks signals. WITN-DT is broadcast on digital UHF channel 32 (even though it displays on your TV set as 7.1), so you need an antenna that does a good job picking up UHF signals. WITN will be required to remain on channel 32 after February 17, 2009, so be sure you have a good UHF antenna. If you live farther away, you are going to need a roof-top or attic mounted antenna. If you get a directional antenna and point it towards Grifton, you will get the best results. The converters are easy to use. They operate much like a DVD player. You attach the antenna and then you can run a coaxial cable to your television and set it on either channel 3 or 4 and then tune in the over-the-air signals with the digital converter box. You can also run RCA wires from the converter to the back of your TV. You will find three cables and three plugs colored Yellow, Red and White. One is for video the other two are your audio feeds. Change you TV input to these plugs and then tune the channels on the converter. Don't delay if you need a converter. We have been transmitting WITN-DT for a couple of years now, so you can switch at any time, you don't have to wait until February 17, 2009!
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