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Ozarks Public Television will shut off its analog signal Tuesday, March 31 at 11:59. KSMU’s Missy Shelton reports.
Shelton: Ozarks Public Television will become the second station in the Springfield market to shut off its analog signal and go all digital. I sat down with Arlen Diamond, the Director of Broadcast Services at Missouri State University to talk about the transition and what it means for viewers.Arlen, give us a little history of how did we get to this point?
Diamond: Ozarks Public Television has been broadcasting in digital since 2003. We are 5 and a half years into this process and $5.2 million in equipment expenses to upgrade our facilities for digital. We had anticipated as most of the nation did, signing off in February. Congress changed that but they changed it on a sliding scale and station have the option of picking any date after March 17th through June 12th. We have opted to go on March 31st at 11:59PM and I can’t say with enough enthusiasm how happy we are to go fully digital very soon.
Shelton: I understand that as that process happens, there will be plenty of people standing by to take calls from viewers.
Diamond: That’s right. We’ll be here particularly on April 1, 2 and 3 to help people who are still having issues or problems. Certainly, for people who are not part of the electronic generation, I put myself in that category, this seems like a much tougher process than for the average teenager who’s used to living in the electronic world. So we’ll be here to help in the early days of all-digital broadcasting. For people who are on satellite or cable, they shouldn’t have any problem. We’ve been running an announcement lately telling people that we will be signing off but that has been going out only on our analog channels so people who have already made the switch or are getting their TV through satellite or cable haven’t seen the messages, only people who will be effected.
Shelton: That’s a helpful way to target those individuals.
Diamond: Absolutely. We don’t want anyone left behind. The fact that KSPR went all digital a couple of months ago, I think is encouraging because there’s been a station in the market that’s already done this and a couple of station will be following a few weeks after us so eventually the market will be all digital. Once one station went, people who liked to watch “Dancing with the Stars” and other popular shows on ABC are either not seeing them anymore or have made the switch.
Shelton: You’ve been in the media business for a number of years, have you ever seen anything this big that would such an impact on viewers?
Diamond: No. And even though I’ve seen much of the history of modern-day television, I haven’t really seen anything in radio or TV that’s been this big a technological shift. I tell people this is the biggest change in television in television’s history unless you want to go back to the early mechanical TV sets. When color television came along, your black and white TV sets still worked just fine but when digital came along, your old analog set no longer works just fine. You have to get a digital converter box or a new TV set. The converter boxes aren’t terribly expensive. For some people, digital TV will be very difficult to receive because of the government standard that was used to determine whether you receive a station or not. That determination, that engineering was based on an antenna 30 feet off the ground and many people don’t have an antenna 30 feet off the ground. Also, digital is a little quirky when it comes to weather and other things like big buildings in the way. Analog, you watched until the screen got snowier and snowier until finally you can’t see much at all. With digital, it’s either there or it’s gone.
Shelton: One problem I’ve noticed in watching some of the digital feeds is audio drop-outs.
Diamond: All kinds of little quirks in the digital world. Frame freeze—suddenly the frame will freeze and the audio will continue on until the picture catches up with it again. I’m not sure always that advances are 100% advances, sometimes there are some little step-backs along the way.
Shelton: Any tips or tricks people might use if they’re finding themselves without a favorite channel?
Diamond: One thing that people probably don’t realize is on their converter box, as stations come and go or change channels, it’s always a good idea to go through the re-scan procedure. If your TV set is an HD-ready TV set and it’s hooked up to cable, you want to go thru the re-scan procedure too. You’ll find sometimes that channel numbers sometimes change and if you don’t re-scan, your TV set will be looking at those old numbers and may not find the channel you’re looking for.
Shelton: I’ve been speaking with Arlen Diamond, the Director of Broadcast Services at Missouri State University about Ozarks Public Television shutting off its analog signal and going all-digital. Again, that happens tonight at 11:59. If you have any questions about the digital transition, you can call Ozarks Public Television at 836-3500 or toll free outside Springfield, call 1-866-684-5695.