The Countdown has begun.
We are now seventy days away from the digital transition for broadcast television. For some of you, this transition has already taken place. Others are starting to see the early warning signs that something different is definitely happening.
We have been out an about talking about digital television throughout eastern North Carolina for several months. A lot of you have questions and the majority of those questions fall into one of three categories.
1. “I currently watch WITN on cable (satellite). Am I going to have to get a new TV or converter?”
The answer here is a simple “no”. The cable and satellite operators have been preparing for the digital transition so you don’t have to worry. Some cable operators, like Suddenlink, are already picking up WITN-DT and then down converting that signal to analog to send out over their cable lines. DISH Network is doing the same thing with satellite delivery. If you subscribe to either of these services, you’re already watching WITN-DT. Congratulations, we hope you are noticing a clearer, sharper picture. On the other hand, we have discovered some issues with the transmission of digital audio, and I will try to address that shortly.
2. “I watch WITN using an antenna. Will I need a new TV?” Yes a new television with a digital tuner would solve this problem. That’s a good solution if you were thinking about getting a new TV. However, if you are happy with your current TV, then all you need to buy is a digital converter. Digital converters are small and very compact. You can connect it to your present TV using one of two connections, a coaxial cable or a set of RCA cables. If you ever connected a Videotape machine or a DVD to your television, you can hook up a converter. In the first method you would screw your antenna feed into the back of the converter, then take the supplied coaxial cable and run that from the output connection on the converter to the antenna input on your television. Set your TV on either Channel 3 or 4, and then tune in the digital stations on the converter box. Your other option is to run the Red, White and Yellow RCA cables from the back of the converter to matching video and audio inputs on the television. You usually have to tune the TV set to the Video1 or Video2 input at that time. You might find a little surprise when you tune in the local channels in that there are extra channels available like the WITN 24/7 WEATHER CHANNEL that shows up as channel 7.2.
3. “O.K. I’ve hooked up my converter and I get some stations, but I am having trouble picking up WITN. What am I doing wrong?” You are probably doing nothing wrong at all, but your antenna is letting you down! As part of the digital transition, the Federal Communication Commission assigned most broadcasters to digital UHF channels. Even though WITN-DT shows up as channel 7.1, we actually are broadcasting on UHF channel 32. That means you need an antenna designed to pick up UHF television signals. WITN-DT broadcasts from the top of a 2,000 foot tower located in Grifton, North Carolina between Greenville and Kinston. If you live within 30 – 35 miles of the tower, you might have success with an amplified set-top antenna (especially if you set it on the side of the house pointing towards Grifton). If you live farther away, you will probably need an outdoor antenna. The good news is that there a very good, outdoor UHF antenna’s that are not very expensive. I recently tested a long-range antenna that cost less than $30 from a local electronics retailer. We were able to get a very strong reading on WITN-DT at the corner of 6th and Evans Street in Morehead City. A couple of important notes here…. this was a brand new antenna, using new coaxial wiring. Antenna’s and wires that have been exposed to the elements for many years may not function at satisfactory levels. In February, 2009 some local broadcasters will change back to VHF digital channels. WITN will remain on digital UHF channel 32, so a good UHF antenna is a necessity to keep watching WITN.
You may have noticed my passing comment about digital audio when discussing cable and satellite. We have found some problems with NBC’s digital audio feed over the last year or more. Sometimes the audio level will fluctuate on some digital receivers. We have especially found this true with some cable boxes and Dish Network receivers. Recently NBC replaced our digital satellite receivers. We were hoping that would correct this problem. Apparently it has not. We are now working on adding a digital audio processor at our transmitter that we believe should alleviate this problem. I cannot supply a definite timetable for this to be accomplished, but we hope that we will be able to correct this in the very near future.
Keep watching WITN and we will keep “Counting You Down” to the Digital Transition.