Iowa Public Television

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What about that DTV delay?

By now you've heard about the national delay in the required analog TV shutoff date - the date is now June 12, 2009.

Iowa Public Television will continue to broadcast in analog until the new shutoff date. Though there is additional expense for Iowa Public Television to do so, we want to ensure as many Iowans as possible are able to make the switch.

We're finding that many viewers who contact us are aware of the transition, and have taken steps to be ready. But when they try to make the switch in their homes, many are finding they have reception and antenna issues. So, we're glad to take advantage of this extra time to help viewers on the phone, on the air, and online.

If you're ready, you can watch IPTV's three digital channels right now! And be sure to help your neighbors, family, and friends with their switch.

If you aren't ready, there's no need to wait. Give us a call at (800) 532-1290 and we can help you make the switch in your home.

We're committed to making sure as many people as possible are ready for the analog shutoff.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I could not believe the reported statement that you were not going to go to digital only this month. The comment that it was only going to cost $30,000 a month to delay the switch until June was just beyond belief. How in the world do you expect people to be willing to contribute to IPTN when you are willing to blow $120,000? Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above commenter - in a time when our state is cutting programs, and budgets with a hack saw, how dare you be so bold as to spend money we (the state of Iowa) don't have. Please rethink this decision, as I will be rethinking MY ANNUAL donation to "FRIENDS".

jay said...

Please rethink the logic behind continuing to power 9 high powered transmitters just for the people who have not taken action for months and months.

Do you realize that most major affiliates (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) are still shutting analog off by 2/18?

Wasting this electricity is not only fiscally irresponsible, it also is unfriendly to the environment since you are wasting huge amounts of electricity.

I also can assure you that the majority of people who are not ready for digital on 2/18 will not be watching IPTV in analog until June.

This decision to continue analog broadcasting is not helping anyone.

Anonymous said...

I too am disappointed about the continued analog service. The phrase Be GREEN should be observed. That is a lot of wasted energy going out to just a few viewers. In turn, IPTV is forcing the commercial stations to continue analog service as well.

Bill Hayes said...

Hi Jay,

There are literally tens of thousands of people in Iowa alone that are not ready for the analog shutoff and millions nationally. Most of the Iowans that we help have purchased converter boxes but are having problems with reception because digital television signal behave differently than analog. The idea that everyone who isn't ready is procrastinator is not a valid assumption. True there are procrastinators out there and I don't doubt that they will be just as ill prepared in June as they are now. But there is another large group that just needs some help solving some problems within their home receive systems and it would probably be safer for them to be climbing on their roofs in April rather than February.

You assertion that most major affiliates are shutting off on 2/18 is flawed. Those decisions are being made on a station by station basis. In Des Moines, the majority are staying on until June 12. The major networks nationally have announced that they are keeping their owned and operated stations on with analog service until June. I have no inside information but I know of a number of stations that originally announced that they would be shutting down on February 17 have reverse that decision and decided to stay on the air until June 12.

I am an engineer not a politician but I have been on the road throughout Iowa for the last year and half and have held numerous DTV information sessions and listen to the questions, concerns and challenges facing people as they move to digital. Many of them elderly and on fixed incomes for whom television is their primary source of information and entertainment. I would say that our continued analog operation is helping them.

Bill

Bill Hayes said...

I am struggling to understand how IPTV's decision to keep our analog service on is "forcing" the commercial stations to do that as well. At this time both analog and digital services are on and operating and have been for some time. The two service operate completely independent of each other. There are some very isolated cases where there is some interaction but in the vast majority of cases each station can make an individual decision to shut down or continue analog operations. Do you have a specific instance that you can describe?

Bill

Anonymous said...

Does KDIN still share an antenna with WHO for 11 and 13? If so, will it be possible for WHO DT13 to operate at 1/10 of KDIN's analog 11's power?

Thanks

jay said...

Bill,

Thanks for your reply, but I still fail to see this as a crisis, even for people who are not ready.

Over the air reception isn't anything new. I would think older people and lower income or rural people would be experts on this by now. I think you will find the iPod generation the most illiterate when it comes to TV viewing using antennas.

Worst case scenario, on 2/18 a minority of Iowa households lose all programming on TV.

So, what happens? Either people learn what to do on their own, or they get help from someone who can comprehend what needs to be done. Even if some people just completely give up on TV, they can still get emergency messages from radio or various alert systems throughout Iowa.

Would it be better to be without TV in February or the middle of June when the floods crested last year?

I also feel bad that IPTV will be spending a great deal of time helping people setup TV's so people can watch competitors stations since most commercial operations are not providing the extent of assistance that IPTV is.

And, in Eastern Iowa, CBS, NBC, FOX and CW affiliates are shutting off analog by 2/18. You can see the listed stations in red here:
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-09-221A5.pdf

I also agree that your actions aren't forcing anyone to extend analog broadcasting. That makes no sense.

I think this is such a debateable topic since TV has become such a large part of everyone's life, some people forget that the right to watch TV is not in the bill of rights, it's a luxury we can live without.

Bill Hayes said...

KDIN and WHO TV do share an antenna and I am not aware of anything that would prevent WHO from operating digitally in to that antenna while KDIN continues to operate analog.

Bill

Bill Hayes said...

Jay,

First of all, a received digital signal behaves differently than analog. In analog there is a direct relationship between the quality of the received signal and the quality of the image on the screen. Since digital television is not broadcasting the pictures and sound but the numeric data that represents them, there is another step in the digital receiver that involves a decoder, that decodes the data and then recreates the picture. Many people watching analog television tolerate a noisy picture but digital will either deliver a perfect picture or a blank screen. So these "experts" that you are talking about are dealing with something totally foreign to them. I have focused on explaining this difference in numerous DTV information sessions statewide and on the television programs we have broadcasted.

I think you are also severely understating the impact of the loss of over the air service. The coupon program was created as part of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005. Note the term public safety. Many people rely on over the air television to alert them to approaching severe weather. I would guess that over the air television probably saved some lives in Parkersburg, IA. Public safety is such a large concern that approximately 25% of the stations that have told the FCC that they want to sign off on 2/17 have been told that they cannot without either supplying a lot more justification or creating and operating community help centers to help people with DTV reception.

As far as helping the competition, our mission is serving Iowans. We don't discriminate based on race, gender, age, or economic criteria. How does the fact that they may watch other stations change our mission. Over a million Iowas a week watch IPTV programming, I think we're fulfilling mission.

You are correct, television isn't guaranteed in the Bill of Rights but on the other hand the service has been around for over 70 years and people have become reliant on it for both entertainment and information. They should be able to continue to rely on it. Every station, whether commercial or educational has a license that requires it to operate in the public interest. I believe it is in the public interest to help as many people as we can so that they can continue to rely on free, over-the-air television.

Bill

Anonymous said...

Bill Hayes said...
KDIN and WHO TV do share an antenna and I am not aware of anything that would prevent WHO from operating digitally in to that antenna while KDIN continues to operate analog.

Bill

I should have clarified my original question. Will the combiner be able to deal with one station (WHO) that's only sending it 1/10 the power of the other (KDIN)?

Bill Hayes said...

As I understand it, the combiner should not have a problem with this. I am checking with a very knowledgable antenna system engineer that I know to make sure.

Bill

Anonymous said...

As a viewer in southeast Iowa we currently are served well by both the channel 12 analog and the digital on 45. Once analog is shut off and digital goes to 12, I hope the powwr level is enough to duplicate the current analog coverage. The reason for concern is WGEM channel 10 in Quincy, IL turned off analog 2/17 and moved the digital from 54 to 10. I always got a watchable analog signal, but can't receive the digital. It seems the lower power level on digital doesn't go as far as analog for the same frequency.

Bill Hayes said...

I believe that Iowa Public Television will have southeast Iowa very well covered. When we shut down our channel 45 out of Iowa City on June 12, 2009 we will be increasing the power that was originally authorized on channel 12 for digital so we believe we will actually improve our coverage compared to channel 45. In addition, we have translators in Ottumwa, Fort Madison, Keosauqua and Keokuk that will all be converted to digital operation later that summer so there should be plenty of IPTV digital signals to choose from.

Bill

Reader said...

I live in Northwest Iowa and am unable to receive any ITBS stations. Do I have to wait until June 12?

Bill Hayes said...

Depending on where you live in NW Iowa, you are either covered by our translator in Sibley or Rock Rapids. Both of those translator sites have recently been rebuilt and are currently operating with analog service. We have filed with the FCC to convert all of our translators to digital service later this year. We expect that the FCC will move pretty quickly on those application and we expect to have the conversions completed towards the end of the summer. Unfortunately the FCC didn't give a lot of consideration to translators when planning the DTV conversion and as a result there is no firm plan to follow in how and when stations will be converting their translators.

Bill

Anonymous said...

When does the Ottumwa translator go to digital KDIN signal is spotty near ottumwa.

Bill Hayes said...

Unlike full powered television stations, translators and low power television stations do not yet have a federally mandated deadline for converting to digital. However, IPTV has applied for and received a constrution permits to convert all eight of our translators to digital. So far we have received authorizations to do the work on 2 of our sites and we expect the rest to be authorized shortly. Ottumwa is one of the sites that has been authorized and we expect to make the conversion later this summer.

As a temporary alternative, you might want to try and receive IPTV's KIIN out of Iowa City on channel 12. We use that signal as the source for the Ottumwa translator.

Bill

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe I have seen NO posts regarding the the "real world" of Digital Television. Located 5 miles west of Mt. Pleasant, through the use of a rotor and dependent on atmospherics, I received up to 11 analog channels. This allowed me to almost always receive all three major networks plus a few other stations. Now, throw the rotor out! It does NO GOOD. The only signals I receive almost 100% of the time is IPBS. My only major network is Channel 4 out of Bettendorf and it's reception is spotty. Most generally I can receive a CW and a FOX station. On two occasions I have received signals from Cedar Rapids but these are not available routinely.
In other words, Digital TV is a terrible hoax which has been imposed on the citizens of this county and in many cases is entirely unsatisfactory.

J.H. Collins

Bill Hayes said...

Greetings J.H. Collins,

I understand your frustration but digital television is not a hoax. However, it does behave differently and reception in fringe areas is more challenging. Based on your description of location, I place you near Rome, IA. I ran a couple of quick computer models of the projected coverage of all of the television station within 125 kilometers of Rome. I did one for the old analog coverages and the new digital coverages. Whether analog or digital, the area around Rome is within the projected coverage of six television stations which are KYOU (FOX, Ottumwa), KGCW (CW, Burlington), KWKB (CW/MNT, Iowa City), KIIN (PBS, Iowa City), WHBF (CBS, Rock Island) and KLJB (CW/FOX, Davenport). In the case of the first four listed, signal projections for the area are fairly high above the threshold for reception. The other two are just at the threshold for reception.

With analog services, the threshold of reception was the point where the noise in the received picture became objectionable. This was a subjective determination based on research done in the 1950's and was used to determine the coverage area for a television station. Reception was possible beyond the tprojected coverage area but the picture would be noisier but could still be watched.

Most television stations digital services have the same coverage as their analog service did. The difference is that the threshold for reception of a digital service is not based on a subjective evaluation of the noise in a picture. Digital technology doesn't allow for a "noisy" picture. Instead, the threshold is the point where the impairments to the received signal are so great that the receiver no longer has enough information to recreate the original content. This is called the digital cliff. I suspect this is the problem you are dealing with.

The same atmospherics and external impairments that disrupted your reliable reception of some of the analog services you used to receive are impacting the digital services, the diference is that the digtial handles weak signals differntly. Since digital can't display a noisy picture, it displays no picture.

There are steps you can take to improve digital reception. Since you have an antenna on a rotor, I would suggest installing a preamplifier at the antenna. This will overcome any losses associated with cable coming down from the antenna into the house and any splitters you may have. If you are using old flat wire downlead or RG59 coaxial cable, I suggest that you replace it with RG6 which is lower loss and more efficient. For reliable digital reception, you want to have as much margin above the receive threshold as you can possibly get.

Based on my analysis, there are potentially 14 television stations that can get. Some will be a little spottier than others because you are well outside of their coverage areas but with a good receive antenna on a rotor, they are there.

I hope this helps.

Bill