Changing channels

Digital conversion begins today, goes until June 12

By John Weiss

Fans of the soap opera "Days of Our Lives" were spared the hiccups that come with today’s transition to digital television.

Rochester-based KTTC, the NBC affiliate, planned to delay for an hour and a half its switch to a digital signal today so fans of the long-running soap opera would not have their viewing interrupted.


"We don’t mess with soap operas," said Jerry Watson, vice president and general manager of KTTC and KXLT, the Fox affiliate.

Fox 47 planned to drop its analog signal at noon.

The two stations are the only ones in the region that plan to make the switch today.

The federal government originally set the digital conversion deadline for today, then recently delayed the switch from analog to digital, giving stations until June 12 to convert. Other stations in the region decided to wait, in part because it’s winter and having to adjust or replace antennas on icy or snowy roofs can be dangerous.

Changing KXLT’s signal will only mean flipping a switch, Watson said. But KTTC’s change requires engineers to drive from a transmitter in Grand Meadow to one in Ostrander to make the change. It could start at noon but that would mean cutting into the popular soap opera, Watson said. KTTC should be back on the air by 3:30 p.m.

On the other hand, Austin’s CBS affiliate, KIMT, based in Mason City, Iowa, will keep its analog signal along with the digital one until the June 12 deadline because some rural people aren’t ready, said Larry Eckblad, chief engineer.

Most of the calls to KIMT are from people wondering about antenna work. If they need a professional, it costs an extra $500 or more to bring in a boom truck, Eckblad said. Digital signals are a bit weaker than analog, so KIMT recently was told it could quadruple its power from 200,000 watts to 800,000 watts so it cannot only cover its existing area but even extend it, he said.

ABC affiliate KAAL, based in Austin, says it also will continue broadcasting its analog signal until June.


Because of unforeseen circumstances, the construction of KAAL’s final DTV facilities will be delayed for several months, the station announced: "KAAL will continue broadcasting its Channel 33 digital signal up to and beyond the DTV transition."

Danica Olson, communications specialist with KSMQ, the PBS affiliate in Austin, said her station will stay with analog longer, though the end date hasn’t been set. The station ran a test recently to see how many people weren’t ready and only a few called, she said. Still, the station has many elderly and rural viewers and doesn’t want to leave anyone without a signal.

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