Iowa Public Television

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why is IPTV continuing analog broadcasting past Feb. 17?

We've heard from viewers concerned about our decision to continue broadcasting analog signals past the original Feb. 17 shutoff date following the national delay approved by Congress. We've also heard from viewers grateful for a little more time to get ready.

Iowa Public Television is, at our core, a public service media organization. We believe it's important to serve all Iowans, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. And in the past year, we've fulfilled some of that public service role by assisting Iowans with questions and problems converting to digital television. We've conducted more than 100 town hall meetings around the state, aired 30 hours of information about the switch, and talked with thousands of Iowans having difficulty making the transition.

Though we did not advocate for the delay, we do see it as our role to take advantage of the extra time to provide information and assistance to those Iowans who aren't yet ready.

We have no doubt Iowans are aware of the switch - and we're not staying analog to help procrastinators. We believe, through our conversations and visits with Iowans, that most of those who haven't made the switch are having unanticipated difficulties with reception and antenna issues. Still others applied for converter box coupons and are now on a waiting list, or never received coupons to begin with.

There will be utility costs associated with staying analog for a few more months, and in these budget times taking on those costs was a difficult decision. We're finding other ways to save in these demanding budget times, because we strongly feel these costs are an investment in helping as many Iowans as possible be prepared for the switch. And of course, the individual contributions made by members will continue to go directly toward programming.

Iowans rely on television, not just for entertainment and a connection to the outside world, but for important public safety information. And Iowa's families - particularly those families in lower income situations without access to pay television or new televisions - rely on our service for safe, educational children's programs.

So though staying analog does incorporate additional expense, we feel the cost allows us to do the important public service mission with which we are charged - helping all Iowans through public media. It's why we were created, why we are supported, and it's our unique responsibility.

14 comments:

jay said...

Jennifer,

Could you please answer the following questions?

1. How much will it cost total to extend analog broadcasting on IPTV's 9 high powered transmitters?

2. Does this money come out of the Friends Foundation?

3. What is your best estimate of how many people will not be able view DTV on 2/18?

4. How will you be cutting costs to make up the difference? I do hope programming does not suffer because of this.

Thank you,
Jay

Jennifer Konfrst said...

Hi Jay. I'd be happy to address your questions.

Our projection is keeping analog transmitters running will cost 30,000 per month, or about 130,000 (including the rest of February).

Utilities like this do not come from Friends contributions. Those dollars go to programming.

We are considering these additional costs as we examine ways to save in this time of buget cuts. It won't be easy to find these resources, but our General Manager and senior management are working hard to make the budget cuts we're facing with as little reduction in service to all viewers as possible. That was true before the delay, and continues to be true today.
This decision was not made lightly or without consideration for the issues you've raised. (We aren't pleased with the additional expense either, which made the decision difficult.) And I've shared your concerns with out General Manager.

You've seen our reasoning for making this decision - aimed at staying true to our mission of public service. We take it seriously, as we do feedback like yours. The time and interest you show in our network and programming means a great deal to those of us who share your passion.

Chris said...

"Utilities like this do not come from Friends contributions. Those dollars go to programming."

Is it supposed to be better in some way that those funds are apparently leeching off the funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting instead of from member contributions?

Why doesn't public television start getting off the federal government dole and try to get to a level of member funding such as NPR and affiliates have (70-80%).

Jennifer Konfrst said...

Chris, I was directly answering Jay's question above, not making a value judgement about which is better - friends dollars or other funding.
Because we are well aware of the sources of our funding we work to make sure we are fulfilling our mission responsibly, and we feel we do that well.

Anonymous said...

The State has cut the budget 1.5% for this fiscal year - it's in the papers.... your management feels it is better for the state of Iowa to broadcast in the analog signal, than to save tax payers money?

Are the other stations - ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC not switching as well? (Local affiliates across the state - I know the KIMT is switching on 2-17-08).

When June 12th rolls around some of these same people still will NOT be ready - what will your stations course of action be then? Will you continue to waste tax payers money, and electricity?

Bill Hayes said...

It is not accurate to assume that all of the people that are not ready for digital television now will not be ready in June. While it is true there are procrastinators that will probably be just as unprepared then as they are now, there are a great many that have taken all the necessary steps only to discover that they still don't receive reliable service and need make additional adjustment. Many of these extra steps involve replacing or installing new outdoor antennas and coaxial cable. Being outside on the roof in February in Iowa is at best unpleasant and at worst dangerous.

We have never looked at Iowa Public Television's services to Iowans as a waste of tax payer money or electricity. The people that we are trying to help with through this transition, the ones that have tried and are having trouble and the ones that procrastinate are also tax payers and I don't know of anyway to separate the ones that have tried from the ones that haven't.

Bill

Anonymous said...

Bill,

KWQC-TV in Davenport is currently on channel 56. They are currently operating at half power because they have reconfigured half of their transmitter to channel 36, which is IPTV analog in Betten-
dorf. Now they cannot move, and people are having problems getting their signal.

Bill Hayes said...

I do understand the issue but KWQC's move to 36 has always been reliant on our moving off the channel. This was dictated by the FCC, not IPTV. I am sorry that the delay has created an issue for their viewers but we have a mission to serve Iowans and that is our top priority.

Bill

Gary said...

After installing the digital converter the high side of our volume is quite low, in fact it can be very hard to hear when the volume is at its max. In analog we had plenty of volume.
Any ideas? We are located in NE Clarke co.

Bill Hayes said...

Hi Gary,

I essentially turn the volume all the way up on my converter boxes and use the volume control on my old analog televisions to adjust the volume of the program. The only thing I use the converter box remote control for is changing channels and accessing the program guide.

Bill

Anonymous said...

Hi, could you please address something for me, please? When should Cable Subscribers in Iowa expect to recieve multicast channels? I live in Menlo, IA. and our local cable co. [Coon Valley] doesn't seem to know...they frequently give us 3 or 4 different answers to a single question depending upon who's on staff at the moment.

Thanks a lot,
Wade

Anonymous said...

When will IPTV be switching over to DTV? Also when will any viewers be effected? One FOX station moved it's good signal so now IPTV is about the only thing I watch.

Bill Hayes said...

From the question "When will IPTV be switching over to DTV" I assume that you live in an area which is served by a translator and I am guessing based on the comment about FOX that you are somewhere in the southeast corner of the state (possibly the Ottumwa area.)

Translators, which are low power transmitters that receive the signal from a full powered station and rebroadcast it on another channel were not required to convert to digital like full powered stations were. So in some areas like yours, you are dealing with a mix of analog (low-power) and digital (full power) stations. Since you cannot get the FOX station (which I am assumming was a full power that shut off its analog in accordance with the federal mandate on June 12th), it appears that you do not have a didital converter box which is why you can no longer get the FOX station.

To answer the questions in order, IPTV will be converting all of our translators to digital over the next three to four months. Viewers without converter boxes will lose service as soon as that conversion happens.

I would encourage you to go to www.dtv2009.gov and order converter box coupons and then go out and pick up converter boxes for all of your television as soon as possible. The coupon can be applied for through the end of July.

Bill

Bill Hayes said...

Hi Menlo resident,

Sorry about not replying sooner but I must have missed this message when it came in. The answer to your questions is it depends. Cable systems are required to carry a down conversion of a station's primary service for their non-digital cable subscribers. However, there are exemptions for very small systems and your's may be in that group. There is not a requirement for a cable system to offer any of the multicast services in their non-digital packages.

For carriage of our digital service we have taken the position of carry one, carry all meaning that all of our services should be available to digital subscribers. But again, there are exemptions for small systems.

Bill