'Beta test' of DTV transition an apparent success

The Wilmington, North Carolina area has become the first all-digital TV broadcast market in the United States, despite tropical storms, and despite what some media outlets called an unprepared populace.

BetaNews spoke to Wilmington local television stations last week about the potential for Tropical Storm Hannah to interfere with the official "switch throwing," and the consensus among station managers was that the whole affair was under control and they were ready.

Two days after Wilmington's mayor Bill Saffo and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin threw a novelty oversized switch, from "analog" to "digital," progress reports are consistent with broadcasters' expectations. The Wilmington broadcast area serves an estimated 14,000 households, and support calls to local stations and the FCC's hotline are only now numbering in the low hundreds.

Gary McNair, Vice President and General Manager of WECT NBC 6 told us today that they've received around 40 calls a day. "We are dealing with them," he said this afternoon, "Once we explain how to peak their signals by adjusting their antenna, they are fine." 

The antenna adjustment is practically the only technical aspect of the digital converter on the customer end.

WWAY ABC 3 General Manager Andy Combs said, "At WWAY we only had 53 calls on Monday, four calls on Tuesday, and no calls today. Out of the 226 total calls that came into the four stations only one person wasn't aware of the switch."

Though some reports claim the transition was unexpectedly rough, Wilmington's TV stations and the FCC have worked together to accommodate everyone...even the 0.01% of the population that's still unaware. As a litmus test for the rest of the US, the "First in Flight" DTV switch bodes well for the upcoming February switchover.

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