WLBZ switch causing problems

By Dale McGarrigle, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 15, 2009, at 10:14 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The latest attempt by WLBZ TV, Channel 2, to get its digital signal to more viewers has met with uncertain results.

WLBZ switched its digital signal from UHF Channel 25 to VHF Channel 2 effective Sept. 11, a move that station officials hoped would improve conditions for a number of viewers using antennas.

Since the earlier switchover from analog to digital signals on June 12, “we have received calls from viewers who used to get our analog signal but cannot receive the digital one,” Judy Horan, WLBZ president and general manager, explained in late August when the change was first announced. “By going back to VHF Channel 2, we’re confident that some of those over-the-air viewers will be able to watch us again. We can’t make a promise to everyone who lost us, but it’s an improvement.”

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The change requires all over-the-air viewers to perform a rescan on their digital television sets or converter boxes in order to receive it.

According to the July Nielsen ratings, about 18 percent, or around 26,000 households in eastern and central Maine, receive their local channels over the air. Horan estimated that her station has heard from about 2 percent of over-the-air viewers.

Horan said it was impossible to quantify how many people the latest change has helped.

“There’s no way really to gauge it,” she said. “We’re going to end up with a net gain [in viewers]. But we’re hearing from those with problems now.”

Much of the blame goes to the science of broadcast signals and the Federal Communications Commission, which mandated that all TV stations broadcast exclusively digitally starting last June 12.

According to the WLBZ Web site, over-the-air viewers who have been watching WLBZ using inside antennas, such as “rabbit ears,” could have difficulty tuning in the VHF frequency.

The VHF — or very high frequency — signal should improve reception for a number of viewers using outside antennas. VHF is much more forgiving when it comes to terrain because it tends to hug the earth better than UHF, making it possible for viewers who lost reception after the June 12 conversion to tune in the station.

The same flexibility can be problematic as the VHF signal enters a building. Moving an indoor antenna toward an exterior window may help, but ultimately the best solution is to use a rooftop antenna.

“The FCC has always based signal reception standards on a rooftop or exterior antenna, not indoor models,” Horan said on the Web site. “That’s frustrating to the viewer who didn’t want to invest in a rooftop antenna or is prevented from doing so at a rental property.”

Viewers who opt to install a rooftop antenna should make sure that the model they select is capable of receiving “low” VHF signals, which are channels 2 through 6.

Viewers with questions may call WLBZ-TV at 942-4821 or 800-244-6306 and listen for the prompt.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/09/15/business/wlbz-switch-causing-problems/ printed on December 22, 2014