Wilmington, NC and WILM-TV to Make Early Switch to Digital TV on September 8, 2008 as part of an FCC Test

WILM

Wilmington, NC and WILM-TV to Make Early Switch to Digital TV on September 8, 2008 as part of an FCC Test

Jim Goodmon
CBC President & CEO Jim Goodmon speaks about his enthusiasm at having WILM as part of the early test transition to digital.

Wilmington, NC is to be the first television market in the country to broadcast exclusively in the new higher quality digital television format as part of a test being conducted in association with the Federal Communications Commission.

Effective at noon on September 8, 2008, WILM-TV and all other commercial television stations serving the Wilmington market will cease broadcasting in the NTSC analog format and begin broadcasting in the ATSC digital format.  Wilmington TV stations volunteered to make the switch to digital broadcasting earlier than the rest of the country to help in a study that is hoped will reveal any problems prior to the Federal Communications Commission’s February, 2009 mandated nationwide transition from analog to digital TV broadcasting.   

Capitol Broadcasting Company President & CEO Jim Goodmon, WILM-TV Station Manager Constance H. Knox, executives from Wilmington commercial stations WSFX, WWAY, WECT, broadcast attorneys, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, Executive Director of the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Connie Majure-Rhett, representatives from retailers Circuit City and Best Buy, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and FCC Commissioner James Copps as well as FCC support staff met on Thursday, May 8, 2008, to discuss the details of the early transition.  The FCC’s plan of action was presented prior to a press conference where all participant’s questions and comments were openly discussed.

Kevin Martin & Bill Saffo
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin (left) and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo attend the May 8th meeting about Wilmington’s voluntary early transition to all-digital.

“I’m impressed at how much work the FCC has already done for the Wilmington market.” said Constance Knox, Station Manager for WILM-TV.  “Chairman Martin explained that the FCC has already contacted cable companies and county governments and is planning town hall meetings and much more” said Knox. “Our most important goal now is to educate the public quickly and effectively.  I am encouraged that everyone involved is committed to making this historic event work as smoothly as possible.  There is so much outreach planned in the next 120 days on all levels from the FCC, area civic groups, retailers and local television broadcasters that I’m fully confident that the public will be well informed about the improvement to the television quality they will receive in their homes beginning at noon on September 8th,” Knox concluded.

Several people addressed the audience following Chairman Martin’s remarks including Goodmon who spoke about the positive impact that the early transition will have not only for Wilmington but for the future of digital broadcasting.  Goodmon pointed out that more individual households will be able to receive free high quality digital television over-the-air than ever before.  He went on to say that CBC is supporting Commissioner Copps’ and Chairman Martin’s initiative to run the Wilmington test in advance of the “big switch” in February, 2009. 

FCC Commissioner Adelstein spoke as well about his concerns that the rest of the country might not get the same support that Wilmington is getting and he questioned how the FCC resources are being implemented.

Wilmington is the 135th television market in the country.   While is it considered a smaller market, Chairman Martin stated that it is the only market in the country where  all stations volunteered for the effort and it is a market that is digital-ready or will be by the early transition date in September.

Cable and Satellite served homes combined in the Wilmington market reach approximately 93% (Nielsen Media Research November, 2007).   The FCC reported that already 5% of the DMA have requested coupons that are available to help defray the cost of the digital converter boxes some will need to continue to use their existing analog TV sets after the transition.

Viewers currently connected to cable or satellite will not need to do anything to move smoothly through the transition.  However, those who view television over the airwaves using an outdoor antenna or rabbit ears will need to purchase a converter box or upgrade their television to a digital set. 

Converter boxes are intended to take the new digital signal and convert it to analog for older model analog television sets.  Coupons are available from the FCC that gives viewers $40 towards the cost of purchasing a converter box.  You can easily apply for coupons on-line at www.dtv2009.gov or call 1-888-DTV-2009.  There is a limit of two coupons per household.

“WILM-TV is proud to be able to assist in the information gathering for the FCC and others to help ensure a smooth transition to digital broadcasting nationwide” said Knox.  “I’m personally very excited to be a part of it”. 

Thanks to WILM’s Constance Knox for this capcom story & to WILM’s Steve Klem & Terri Pudney for these capcom photos.

 

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