In this week’s issue… Repack deadline coming up fast – Big station sale in the Lehigh Valley – Canadian media giant gets even bigger
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*For dozens of stations across NERW-land, the FCC deadline that’s approaching Friday will be a tight one. From Maine to Ohio, stations in Phase 4 of the ongoing repack of digital television are still awaiting tower climbers, antennas and even transmitters as they try to either be ready for their new RF channels – or they’re keeping lawyers working overtime filing extension and STA requests as they realize they might not be up and running at full power by the end of this repack phase.
We don’t have a full count yet of who’ll make the deadline and who’ll miss it, and it’s very much a moving target in these last few days, when any glitch in a tight timeline can have big ripple effects. In Syracuse, WSYR-TV (Channel 9) viewers aren’t getting a consistent signal on either its old channel or its new one, for instance, due to what appears to be an amplifier module failure in the old channel 17 transmitter – a particular problem for a Nexstar station that’s also off DirecTV because of the company’s carriage dispute.
Here in Rochester, it was a burned out motor on a giant crane that kept WXXI-TV from replacing its old top-mounted channel 16 antenna, forcing an early switch to channel 22 from a lower powered side-mounted antenna (and possibly weeks of delay before the big crane can once again get up Pinnacle Hill to finish the job.)
Photo: Bryan Agnello/WXXI
For viewers across the region, the reminders to “rescan your TV” will be ubiquitous this week, especially with some stations moving to new facilities ahead of the August 2 deadline and others waiting until the last moment. No matter how much that message gets pushed out in on-air crawls and on social media, some viewers still won’t get it, of course – and some will still lose signals, especially in the markets where stations are leaving UHF or high-band VHF for the problematic terrain of low-band VHF. (That includes three prominent public broadcasters, WGBH in Boston, WSBE in Providence and WQED in Pittsburgh, headed for channels 5, 2 and 4, respectively.)
And for stations that can’t hit the deadline, it’s not as though equipment or crews will be in any more abundant supply after this week; Phase 5 takes the repack caravan south, with just as much demand there for cranes and climbers and mask filters and transmitters as our region had in Phase 4.
One more wrinkle in the repack: we’re hearing about occasional glitches as some antenna-based DVR systems (TiVo in particular) try to cope with the changing channels; if they’re depending on a database from their provider instead of directly scanning for new signals, some aren’t getting updates fast enough.
We’ll be watching as the deadline approaches, and we’ll be back with a comprehensive report next week.
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!