421 Stations Transition, A Nation Yawns
So far, so not all that bad.
Reports are coming in from all over, and most of them are fairly positive. Many of them deal with a bunch of locations at once, so let me pull out a few interesting pieces of data from these TV Newsday, Broadcasting & Cable, TV Week and NPR articles.
When it comes to large-scale turnoffs, we are not dealing for the most part with the biggest urban centers. We have Providence, but not Boston or New York. San Diego, but not Los Angeles. Scranton, but not Philadelphia. Overall, the FCC seems to want to give the biggest cities (which may have a larger concentration of poor and/or non-English-speaking residents) the most time to prepare. According to TV Newsday:
The most populous places where many or all major-network stations are cutting analog this week include San Diego and Santa Barbara, Calif.; La Crosse and Madison, Wis.; Rockford and Peoria, Ill.; Sioux City, Iowa; Waco, Texas; Macon, Ga.; Scranton, Pa.; Rhode Island and Vermont.
The news from San Diego sounds pretty good, according to both Broadcasting & Cable and this Los Angeles Times story, with a modest amount of calls, mostly from people who already had boxes and just needed technical advice (such as the need to rescan), although there were antenna-related calls as well. This also seems to have been the case in Pennsylvania, according to a quote in the B&C article from an official in the Pennsylvania Broadcasters Association. Similar statements were made by officials from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, the Florida Association of Broadcasters (whose CEO made a Y2K reference), the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mark III Media (operating out of Caspar, Wyoming) and the National Association of Broadcasters. There were also articles taking encouragement from the experience of Springfield, IL, Fort Myers, FL and Nashville, TN
Nationally, the FCC hotline actually had fewer calls Wednesday than the day before.Again, the failure of consumers to understand the need to re-scan for new channels was an issue, causing the FCC to issue a consumer advisory on the subject.
It wasn't all roses, 'tho. President Michelle Vetterkind of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association reported that stations have been getting calls "in the hundreds", but characterized the callers as frustrated rather than angry. Call volume was particularly heavy in Providence, with one call center worker telling TV Newsday that he kept having to explain to callers that the transition was not just a scheme to extort money out of them. The biggest issue for callers appeared to be antennas.
Antennas were also an issue in Vermont, due to the hilly terrain (which I experienced from family visits growing up) causing difficulties in UHF reception (which is where several channels were moving to).
There was a certain amount of date-related confusion reported (although Lori Needham of the Rhode Island Broadcasters Association said that this was not a problem in Rhode Island). The mass media just barely managed to cover the June delay in the first place, the fact that hundreds of stations were going ahead anyway got much less coverage than that (of the network news shows I've been watching, I saw one mention lasting about five seconds). And I haven't seen any TV news stories on the Feb 17 moves. Overall, this remains a story for the Business/Tech section of the newspaper.
I also got the impression that converter-box sales have picked up dramatically in the affected areas.
BTW, if you're a cable/satellite viewer like me and wonder what it was like to see an analog station to sign off, here's a video of three signoffs (from The Orlando Sentinel via The New York Times).
P.S. Thanks to the commenters from the last post for their field reports. How are people in your town reacting to all this?