Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Three Nashville TV stations go digital-only tonight

Fox 17, two sister stations shut analog at midnight By Naomi Snyder • THE TENNESSEAN • February 17, 2009 The Nashville area will get its first major test of the digital tv transition tonight if WZTV Fox 17 and two sister stations go ahead with plans to cut off their analog signals at 11:59 p.m. Other broadcasters have decided to wait to turn off their analog signals after Congress extended the mandatory deadline to June 12. The switch is expected to affect only analog TV sets that aren't hooked up to cable or satellite service and don't have a digital converter box. Despite more than a year of public informational programming about the digital switch, research firm The Nielsen Group estimated earlier this month that about 30,000 people in the Nashville area who depend on over-the-air signals are completely unprepared, or 3.5 percent of the media market. That means thousands could potentially lose top-rated TV shows such as American Idol, which airs Tuesday and Wednesday nights. At an event in Nashville on Monday, U.S. Rep Jim Cooper joked that residents who will lose the local Fox affiliate's signal will instantly become smarter. More coupons coming The federal government has run out of coupons meant to defray the cost of the digital converter boxes needed to receive digital signals on an analog TV set, although about $650 million in additional funding for the coupons was included in the economic stimulus bill passed by Congress on Friday. Whit Adamson, the president of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, said he didn't know when those coupons would become available, but it could be weeks. If they don't want to wait for the discounts to become available, consumers can spend about $60 to buy a converter box. Fox 17's sister stations also planning to make the digital switch tonight are WUXP-MYTV30 and WNAB-58, which play shows such as Judge Judy, Seinfeld and Two and a Half Men. Executives for the parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, could not be reached Monday. Other stations that have already made the switch are WJFB in Lebanon, which plays Jewelry Television, and WHTN in Murfreesboro, the Christian Television Network. The FCC estimated Monday that 421 stations in the U.S. plan to terminate analog broadcast signals today. Altogether, about 36 percent of the nation's 1,800 full-power stations have switched or will switch off their analog signal by the end of today.

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