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Orlando Stations to Test Analog Switch-Off

On the same day Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin formally announced that Wilmington, N.C., will serve as the test market for the end of the digital-TV transition by having its stations switch off their analog signals early and go all-digital in September, 11 stations in the Orlando, Fla., market announced that they will try to help smooth the DTV transition by simulating the Feb. 17, 2009, analog turnoff at various points this summer.

The test program -- which mimics a simulated analog shutdown conducted by NBC affiliate KVBC Las Vegas last week -- will involve three test broadcasts between June and the end of the year, with the first test scheduled for June 25 at 7:59 p.m.

Participating stations -- which will heavily promote the tests in advance -- will turn off the video feed to their analog transmitter for one minute, thus disrupting service for viewers who rely on over-the-air signals. Viewers who watch the stations through digital-TV sets, or those who receive them through cable or satellite operators that receive direct feeds from the stations, won’t lose service and will instead see a congratulatory message telling them they’ve passed the test.

At the conclusion of each test, stations will notify viewers that if their screen went blank, they need to take corrective action, and will direct them to government Web sites and toll-free numbers where they can get information about their DTV-transition options, such as getting a digital-to-analog converter box.

Participating stations include WESH-TV channel 2 (Hearst-Argyle Television), WKMG-TV channel 6 (Post-Newsweek Stations), WFTV-TV channel 9 (Cox Enterprises), WCEU-TV channel 15 (Daytona Beach Community College District), WKCF-TV channel 18 (Hearst-Argyle), WMFE-TV channel 24 (Community Communications), WVEN-TV channel 26 (Entravision Communications), WRDQ-TV channel 27 (Cox), WOTF-TV channel 43 (Univision Communications), WTGL-TV channel 45 (Good Life Broadcasting) and WBCC-TV channel 68 (Brevard Community College).

“One of the biggest questions viewers have is, ‘Will this affect me?’ This test will answer that,” explained consortium spokesperson Richard Monn, WESH/WKCF-TV chief engineer. “To the best of our knowledge, the marketwide test we’re proposing has not been utilized or attempted by any other alliance of broadcasters in the country.”