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Published: Monday, 6/22/2009

We interrupt this program

AS EXPECTED, some people in

fringe areas discovered with the changeover to digital television transmission that they were no longer able to pick up two local channels. Unexpected was the fact that "fringe" areas would include such Toledo neighborhoods as Old Orchard and nearby towns like Lambertville, Mich.

The public had been told that the new digital signals would be considerably weaker than the old analog signals. It was also understood that in digital broadcasting there's no such thing as watching a snowy picture. You either have a signal or you don't, there's no gray area. That's why viewers in outlying areas who still use rabbit ears or rooftop antennas were warned that some of the channels they were accustomed to tuning in might go dark after the changeover.

But most viewers of WTOL-TV, Channel 11, and WTVG-TV, Channel 13, likely were unaware of just how weak these signals would be. They are so weak that viewers soon found almost anything - aluminum siding, electrical wiring, walls without windows, and even passing trains - could turn their favorite programs into blank screens.

Nobody seems to know how many households in and around Toledo have lost the stations, but it could be thousands.

Officials at the TV stations claim that they're innocent victims too; that they didn't know this would happen. But they should have.

For many people, watching TV is more than a pleasant form of entertainment, more even than a necessity; it is a right nearly equal to those penned by the Founding Fathers.

Networks and station owners across the country are trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission to allow them to increase their broadcast strength to about double the current levels, which vary with each station. But there are no assurances the FCC will agree and even some indications it will say no.

The bottom line is that channels 11 and 13 ignored Murphy's Law - If anything can go wrong, it will - and now they're paying the price in a public-relations nightmare of uncertain dimensions.

The only question left is how they intend to make it up to their viewers.



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