Some analog signals will still be available in area

Rick Wagner • Jan 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The demise of analog television in the Tri-Cities and elsewhere across the nation won’t come Feb. 17.

Yes, you read that right.

Midnight Feb. 17 is just the federally mandated end of full-power analog TV, not all analog TV.

Analog signals still to be on the air the morning of Feb. 18 include low-power stations.

For instance, Holston Valley Broadcasting, for the time being, will retain analog Channels 7 and 36 in Kingsport, which carry WAPK-TV, a My Network affiliate; analog Channel 9, a Retro TV affiliate; Channel 14 in Greeneville, which carries WAPK; and Channel 4 in Pennington Gap, Va., which carries WKPT-TV 19.

Those offerings also are on area pay-service providers.

In addition, WEMT-TV 39 in Greeneville — owned like WCYB-TV 5 by Bonten Media Group — has an analog Channel 39 translator in Marion that is to stay on analog Channel 43. Media General, owner of WJHL-TV 11, has no such low-power translator stations.

George DeVault, general manager of WKPT and president of station owner Holston Valley Broadcasting, said that the changeover could cause a slight increase in viewership of the analog stations remaining and that some people might be content to pick up programming of Channel 19 through a translator.

During “soft” analog shutdowns, DeVault said that some customers of smaller cable systems saw the message that they needed a digital converter but that the message also said if they were receiving the message and were on cable they needed to contact their cable provider.

He said most satellite providers and larger cable systems get a fiber-optic feed from TV stations and no longer rely on over-the-air antennas.

DeVault said that someday the low-power analog stations will be forced to sign off the air or convert to digital, possibly by 2012 or later, but for the time being they will continue to operate.

However, he said to get the full range of programming, even casual viewers will want more than what will be left with analog.

Options are to get a digital converter box, a digital TV or another device with a digital tuner. Or, viewers can go to cable or satellite.

The boxes run from about $45 to $80, with the more expensive ones offering analog pass-through in additional to digital channels.

So, for instance, viewers in Kingsport could continue watching analog channels 7, 9 and 36 while also getting the region’s digital offerings.

For more information on the $40 analog-to-digital conversion coupons and to sign up for the waiting list for the program, go to www.DTV2009.gov.

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