First in Flight,
First in DTV
Yesterday Wilmington, NC Mayor Bill Saffo and Chairman Martin flipped a ceremonial switch converting Wilmington to "all DTV". Wilmington has a population estimated at 99,623 in 2007 and the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area has a 2007 estimated population of 339,511. Wilmington is the 135th-largest Designated Market Area in the country, with 179,760 TV homes, 0.159% of the U.S. TV universe.
TV Week reports,
"Three stations are not participating: W47CK, the UHF MyNetworkTV affiliate with a transmitter located near Wilmington; W51CW, an affiliate of the Trinity Broadcasting Network; and WUNJ-TV, the local outlet of the statewide public broadcasting system owned by the University of North Carolina.
Steve Volstad, the director of marketing and communications for UNC-TV, said the public broadcasters decided to pass on the Wilmington test because the system feeds emergency messages from the governor and hurricane season is in full swing. Many people rely on battery-powered televisions during hurricanes and other weather-related emergencies."
Thus the switch appears to only involve most of the over the air commercial stations -- which in Wilmington are only directly received by 7% of the population. We have been unable as yet to confirm whether Time Warner, the local cable system has switched to all DTV beyond the local "must carry" stations - that are required to be available in both analog and digital format on cable for at least 3 years. So the issue of what happens to cable subscribers with analog TVs but without set top boxes is somewhat uncertain except for the fact they will continue to receive the signals from NAB and MSTV members.
Call Centers Buzzing in Wilmington
Most Calls from viewers who lost access to WECT-TV
The phones have not all been silent since Wilmington, N.C., shut off its analog-TV signal at noon Monday.
Melody Prevatte said her call center at Southeastern Community College received about 75 calls, mostly Columbus County residents who could not watch WECT-TV (the local NBC affiliate). “One lady was near hysterical,” she added. “She continued calling -- I think she spoke to everyone on our campus.”
FCC officials stated that the Wilmington event was mainly a learning experience. FCC devoted unprecedented resources to consumer education in Wilmington and enlisted others to help out also. Whether this level can be sustained in other cites is yet to be seen. Chairman Martin has told Broadcasting & Cable that FCC is focusing its resources on "targeting the 81 markets we think are most at risk [with at least 100,000 over-the-air-only households or at least 15% of the market]". It is nice to know that there actually are communities where more than 15% of the population actually use over-the-air signals.
Wilmington, NC - First in DTV
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Related FCC Press releases: