In this week’s issue… Repack window opens for many NE DTV stations – WEEU finds a buyer: what next? – Mass Broadcasters name HOF class – Remembering RI’s Taricani – Sports voice out in Toronto
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*You wouldn’t think WBNX-TV in Akron, Ohio would have much in common with WPXG in Concord, NH or WCPB in Salisbury, Maryland – and until now, you’d have been right.
But on Saturday, phase 4 of the FCC’s digital TV repack began, and with it six weeks of incredibly intense work that will end up affecting most of the TV stations in NERW-land (and a little bit beyond). (Phase 4 map below courtesy RabbitEars.info)
WPXG, for instance, moves from RF channel 33 to 23, clearing the way for Boston’s WCVB to move from 20 to 33 so its neighbor WBZ-TV can go from 30 to 20. That requires WCCT in Connecticut to go from 20 to 33 as well to retain its precise interference spacing to WCVB. And that requires WFSB in Hartford to go from 33 to 36, which in turn also sends WCBS-TV in New York from 33 to 36 – which requires WNJU (and channel-share partner WNBC) to clear off 36 with a move to 35, made possible by WVIT in Hartford shifting from 35 to 31, made possible by WFXT in Boston, WTIC-TV in Hartford and WPXN in New York going from 31 to 34.
Still with us? Good – because for WPXN to go to 34 required WCAU in Philadelphia to go from 34 to 28 (and that’s where WCPB down in Salisbury comes in, shifting from 28 to 16) and WMHT in Schenectady from 34 to 25. And for WMHT to go to 25 requires WCNY in Syracuse to go from 25 to 20, which was only possible because Ithaca-licensed WNYI goes from 20 to 13, which in turn was made possible by WHAM in Rochester going from 13 to 9 and CFTO in Toronto from 9 to 8. And while WCNY can’t coexist on 25 with WMHT, lower-powered WTVU-CD can make the move from 22 to 25 in Syracuse, clearing the way for Rochester’s WXXI to go from 16 to 22, which requires WFXP in Erie to go from 22 to 26 (made possible by WNYB in Jamestown taking auction money to go from 26 to 5). But for WFXP to go from 22 to 26 means WVIZ in Cleveland must go from 26 to 35 – and that creates adjacent-channel issues that force WYTV in Youngstown from 36 to 31, which would again create an adjacent-channel issue unless WBNX in Akron goes from 30 to 17.
Is your head completely unscrewed by now? Good – because that’s actually just a fraction of the 84 interlinked channel moves that all have to happen in a very specific order between now and the end of the phase on August 2.
Some of those 84 moves can happen early in the phase, but there’s an extremely complex set that has to happen essentially instantaneously, scheduled right now for 1 PM on August 1. That interlinked group includes WBZ, WCVB and WFXT in Boston; WFSB, WCCT, WVIT and WTIC-TV in Hartford; and WCBS-TV, WNBC/WNJU and WPXN in New York – and you know what, now our head is completely unscrewed as well. (Linked Station Set map courtesy RabbitEars.info)
Our friend Trip Ericson has summarized this particular tangled knot (“Linked Station Set 36“) and the entirety of Phase 4 at his outstanding RabbitEars.info site, and you’re welcome to peruse that in all its excruciating detail. But while you’re doing that, take a moment to contemplate all the engineers who’ll be working overtime in the next few weeks, installing new transmitters, juggling equipment orders and scheduling overworked tower crews as they try to get this whole knot untangled and all the new channels on the air by August 2 – at which point the tower crews and corporate engineers get to move south for Phase 5.
We’ll be following closely as all this work takes place on mountaintops, tall towers and skyscrapers across the region – and if you’re one of our readers who has a Phase 4 repack project underway, we’d love to see some pictures!
We have a great lineup of podcasts here on our site. While you’re catching up with your summer reading, don’t forget about your summer listening. Now is the time to make sure you’re up to date with Top of the Tower.
Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
Don’t forget you can still visit our store to check out our other great products. We’ll be taking preorders for the 2021 calendar soon. Stay tuned!