In Michiana, The Future Arrived Today.


It’s funny how after a vacation, all kinds of things seem to happen at once. I was taking a short week of skiing with my family in the north end of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan (where they still have great snow, BTW) and was trapped in a condo at night…with only dialup Net access. What is this, Siberia? In any event, I let a lot of email pile up. This morning, as we were driving home, I read a message from Jim Feeley asking,

Have you seen THIS?

Coincidence #1: As I read this article, I was driving directly through the Michiana market that PBS affiliate WNIT serves, centered in Elkhart, IN. Talk about your tough luck – to have both transmitter tubes on your analog transmitter blow up at once. Any sane station manager would want to jump off the tower – transmitter tubes are very, VERY expensive pieces of gear. Due to the eternal budget crises at PBS stations, WNIT’s management was forced into the decision to not repair their analog transmitters, which would in any event be turned off permanently 11 months from now, on February 17, 2009. However, here we find a tiny ray of hope. While you haven’t heard much about it on the viewer’s end until (seemingly) yesterday, in actuality the “digital TV transition” has been going on now for years. WNIT – along with almost all other US TV stations – has been dual-broadcasting over both analog and digital airwaves for several years now. WNIT’s general manager, Mary Pruess, claims that “a large majority” of their over-the-air viewers have already made the move to digital reception (color me skeptical about that one, but let’s run with it for now.) But here’s where the lemonade cart shows up, to squeeze those lemons into juice: WNIT has set up a hotline and Website to do what is possible to help their viewers make the digital leap. One would have to believe that that’s going to be one busy phone.

To me, this is broadcasting at it’s best. We can’t wait for the last possible second to reach out – and when I say “we,” I especially mean PBS stations, since the “antenna people” are overwhelmingly PBS viewers. WNIT is taking disaster and using it to pull its viewers into the digital TV age, and hooray for them. Other stations should learn from their example and get on the stick.

Coincidence #2: We pull into our home, unload the car, and start sorting through the accumulated mail. What do I find?

My DTV Converter Box Coupons, worth $40 apiece towards DTV tuners. Wanna help me spend them?

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A 1981 graduate of the Boston University College of Communication, Bruce A. Johnson got his first job in broadcast television at WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, FL. While there, he rose through the ranks…