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Analog Signal Comes Full Circle at WJHL

Back in 1953, on Oct. 26 when he was 29 years old (pictured, left), W. Hanes Lancaster Jr. through the switch that fired up the analog signal at WJHL in Johnson City, Tenn. Some 65 years later, he’ll throw that switch again–this time to shut off that signal and help usher the station into an era of all-digital broadcasting.Lancaster, now 85, is the “founder, owner, operator, former GM and evening janitor,” says WJHL General Manager Jack Dempsey. He’ll throw the switch Friday, June 12, at 12:29:30, during the station’s noon news.

Dempsey notes that the Media General-owned CBS affiliate was the first full-power station to begin analog broadcasting in the market. And he points out that the station has had only two GM’s since then: When Lancaster retired in 1989, Dempsey took over.

Dempsey said he decided the station should pull the plug mid-day and keep the switchboard open until 7 p.m. to handle calls from viewers. He decided Lancaster was the person to do it since “none of us would be here if it weren’t for him.”

And it won’t be a ceremonial switch-off. Lancaster will do the actual turn-off from a laptop computer on the station’s news set. (pictured, right)

WJHL has been delivering a digital signal since April 2002.

According to Dempsey, the switch went off with only a slight hitch. He says that there was “some confusion as the Dish TV folks didn’t catch the switch,” but added that “at this hour [about 3 p.m.] the switchboard is quiet.”

“It was a great day in the history of WJHL-TV and Hanes was delighted to throw the switch that advanced us to a new era!”