WIPB-TV will not delay digital switch

Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

February 10, 2009

WIPB Public Television will discontinue its analog broadcast signal at midnight on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Although Congress recently granted an extension to stations allowing them to continue analog transmissions until June 12, financial constraints led to the local PBS affiliate's plan to cease its analog signal on the original shut-off date.

"As with many community businesses, WIPB is addressing the challenge of rising costs and declining revenue," stated Alice Cheney, general manager.  "In order to preserve the high quality programming our viewers have come to expect, we are cutting costs anywhere we can. We are leaving no stone unturned.

"While we can empathize with many of our community members who may not yet be ready for the digital conversion, the cost of continuing to carry the analog signal along with our digital signal is prohibitive for WIPB. The electric costs alone for using the analog signal from February until the new June date would be $30,000. As a public television station, we simply don't have the financial resources to continue our analog signal beyond Feb. 17."

Other costs associated with the analog signal include maintenance of WIPB's tower and transmitter. The current analog signal transmitter was purchased in 1977, explained Cheney, adding that a replacement tube purchased (used) a few years ago cost $7,500. As long as WIPB continues to use its analog signal tower, the station also is responsible for maintaining the tower lights; they were hit by lightning a year ago and repaired at a cost of $10,000.

WIPB began transmitting its digital signal on Oct. 31, 2005, which has expanded the station's reach into the Indianapolis metro area, western Ohio and as far north as Fort Wayne. With the digital signal, WIPB can now be seen in as many as 1 million households, reaching a total population of 2.4 million people.

In addition to expanding WIPB's audience, digital television (DTV) enables the station to transmit programming with higher resolution — meaning dramatically better picture and sound quality — than what is available on the current analog system. DTV also gives the station greater ability to "multicast" or transmit several different programs at once between two digital channels. For programming information, visit www.bsu.edu/wipb.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has established a review process for stations wishing to convert on the original date. Cheney said WIPB will be working through that process this week and expects for it to be complete in time to terminate the analog signal on Feb. 17.

Television viewers without cable or satellite service will need either a newer TV set equipped with its own digital tuner or a converter box for their existing TVs. An antenna is required when using a converter box. Local over-the-air viewers will continue to find WIPB on broadcast channel 52.

Viewers who currently enjoy WIPB on cable or Dish Network will not need additional equipment to receive the digital signal.

For an update on the converter box coupon program, visit www.dtv2009.gov. For more details regarding DTV and the options it provides viewers as well as television stations, visit www.dtv.gov.

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