CBS/ABC Stupidity in Champaign, IL - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 04-02-2002, 02:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Anticipating the May 1 deadline for DTV transmissions, I e-mailed all the local Champaign, IL TV stations asking about the status of their digital transmitters.

Both WCIA (CBS, Channel 3) and WAND (ABC, Ch. 17) responded that the digital transmitters would be active on May 1 (to their credit, they actually e-mailed me back; I never heard from our local NBC or FOX affiliates)

BUT

Neither will be passing through the network HD feeds. The WAND folks said that the transmitter would be turned on May 1, and that this was the "first phase" and that HD broadcasts "would come later." (Whatever that means.) The station manager for WCIA actually said that it would be "several years" before they broadcast anything in HD "because equipment costs are too high".

Can anyone on this list who is a broadcast engineer give me a ballpark figure of what the incremental cost is for a station to pass through the network HD feed? I just can't believe that a station like WCIA would invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a digital transmitter, then claim they can't pass along the CBS HD signal because "it costs too much" - surely the equipment for decoding the CBS DC2 HD signal and then re-ecoding it for 8VSB ATSC transmission isn't THAT expensive. Or is it?

Frankly, I don't care all that much; I get my HD fix via my big dish, my StarChoice setup, and HDNet on DirecTV. But I'd like to support my local stations, and would gladly watch the WCIA broadcast of CSI rather than the Detroit feed via StarChoice if I could. I just find these responses incredible!

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post #2 of 14 Old 04-02-2002, 09:11 PM
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Yes DTV in central Illinois pretty much sucks. The CBS station in Peoria says its only going to broadcast the 4x3 digital and wont broadcast true 1080i High def for years. They currently applied for a 1 year extension. Its funny how the law works for some and not for others. They can get a extension but they wont give me a waiver. At least we have PBS doing high def.

Born to live.....
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post #3 of 14 Old 04-02-2002, 10:02 PM
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Just remember most stations have yet to begin to upgrade their in-house electronics (switching equipment, downlinks etc) to HD - hence your delays ...

And just remember, even standard definition digital should meet or beat the quality of any local feeds on D* or E* - an important point for those of us stuck in non-waverable, non-satellite-feed analog land.

Perspective folks ... perspective ...

HDC
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post #4 of 14 Old 04-02-2002, 10:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mark Mac
The CBS station in Peoria says its only going to broadcast the 4x3 digital and wont broadcast true 1080i High def for years. ... but they wont give me a waiver.
You may find this information interesting.
The Chief engineer at CBS posted this remark.

FYI.. CBS has granted a blanket waiver for anyone to receive their HD feed via Direct TV.


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post #5 of 14 Old 04-03-2002, 03:16 AM
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A transmitter can easily cost between 300k to half a million depending on power levels and redundancy. Then add an antenna and transmission line. 50-100k, again power levels and antenna height. Now you need an exciter (frequency/modulator generator for channel) 30k, and digital video encoder another 30k. Now do you want to do HDTV? You then need a digital link to that encoder. That can be a fiber optic line, microwave digital studio link (most stations would do this..75-100k) or if you are really lucky the transmitter is co-located at the studio. In that case, some high quality coax. Less then $100, because you have to buy the spool of wire.. Now you are talking in the neighborhood of about half a million. But this mostly excludes what it takes to build out the equipment needed at the studio to pass along HDTV. You can always add a satellite downlink at the transmitter to pass the HD with a "switch" between the studio SD feed and the sat HD feed. (a way to cut costs)

But what if your station was a VHF and now you have a digital UHF frequency. It's likely that the current tower can not handle the extra load of a full power UHF antenna and transmission line. It's also likely that the current tower was built when the station went on the air. (1952-53?, if it's a VHF, mid-late 60's if UHF) So, if you are a V then you will need to build a new tower, that’s half a million to a million. But, if you are one of the many UHF stations and have not sold too much tower space to paging and FM then your tower should be able to handle the extra load. Maybe a little extra bracing in tower work.

So, if you are currently a UHF station then you are much better prepared then VHF would be. Another crux of being VHF. Even if your tower could handle another antenna. Most VHF towers in the Midwest (any place flat) are just at 1000ft or a bit less. WCIA's tower is about 900ft, while WICD's (UHF) is about 1340ft. You will need a lot of power to get out as far as WICD at only 900ft. Height is everything in UHF.

As far as WCIA, they are now officially broadcasting a DTV signal on air. In fact they began last Saturday on ch.48 in Champaign and ch.53 in Springfield. Be it at low power though. The primary channel is WCIA and the sub channel is the new UPN 49 that just started up. WCIA is using the digital signal to allow them to make available UPN 49 on the eastern side of the market, while the western side can pick up off air ch.49. WCFN 49 (new UPN station) was the repeater for ch.3 on the western side, but decided that making it a new UPN would help revenues. (don’t blame them) Figuring that almost 80% of viewers have cable won't be bothered with the switch. This now means that the only way to get channel 3 (WCIA) is to get cable or a DTV tuner to pick up the digital signal now being broadcast. So you can thank the new "UPN 49" for bringing DTV to central Illinois. Otherwise the incentive to make the switch would have been on hold. BTW, only 480i on both primary and sub channel. No HD..

I don't know much about WAND ch 17. If they say may 1st then wait and see. In recent years the station has made quite a few upgrades, including master control. Did you notice the stereo signal light turned on a few years ago? Ch 23 WBUI has also made a huge investment in master control, a lot of automation, and a new transmitter facility with a whole new higher tower. Same height as ch 17 1290ft, FAA restrictions limited to building out to a full 2000ft.

As for WICD, no plans as of yet.. They are owned by Sinclair, need I say more? 60 tv stations, with half a million dollars per station to convert.. Under the old ownership it was thought that they might have beat Ch 3 to DTV. (A huge thing if you've always been a distant #2 in the market since day one) Mostly because they are UHF and the towers had almost no loading of FM's and paging. Also, WICD's transmitter is circa 1968 and was due to be replaced by a transmitter that would have done both NTSC and DTV at full power, as had been done at WICS in Springfield right before the sale of the two stations.. Now it looks like the old RCA transmitter will be around until NTSC is shut off for good. That's quite a long service life. If on long enough parts will become harder to get. Anyone know relay logic? Then I've got a transmitter for you!

Kidding aside, I think ch 12 WILL (brand spanking new studio to die for, who says PBS’s don’t have money? Well they did live in a pit for a long time) or WAND (less so) are your best bet to HDTV OTA. Or do what I want to do, move to some place that has OTA HDTV. :) At least for those here in Springfield, we can now get waivers for CBS and get the HDTV feed because we are now in a "white area" not covered by any in market CBS.

As you can tell, I know a bit about what’s going on here in Central Illinois. That’s because I work at one of the local stations (not WICD) and get to talk to a lot of the people working on this stuff.

Wow, that was long.. Enjoy.
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post #6 of 14 Old 04-03-2002, 04:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by gmichael


You may find this information interesting.
The Chief engineer at CBS posted this remark.

FYI.. CBS has granted a blanket waiver for anyone to receive their HD feed via Direct TV.


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But that's only true if the local stations is owned and operated by CBS and you are not in ANY other CBS's station grade B signal. So the station in Peoria would still have to grant a waiver to receive the Dish (not DirecTV) WCBS-DT signal.
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post #7 of 14 Old 04-03-2002, 04:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally posted by mdamberger


As you can tell, I know a bit about what’s going on here in Central Illinois. That’s because I work at one of the local stations (not WICD) and get to talk to a lot of the people working on this stuff.

Wow, that was long.. Enjoy.
Wow. Thanks for the info. I didn't realize WCIA was already doing a digital signal. I'm going to hook up my UHF yagi to my RCA DTC100 today and see if I can pull in Channel 48 - getting the UPN subchannel would be a big benefit for this Buffy/Enterprise fan (though I currently get both of these via MPEG off my big dish).

I'm very disappointed that WCIA won't pass the CBS network signal, since about 50% of what I watch is on CBS (E.g., CSI, the Agency, and of course the sports events like the NCAA and Masters). But since I don't have cable, the DTV signal for the local news should be a LOT better than the ghosty analog I get with my attic-mounted antenna.

John Colombo
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post #8 of 14 Old 04-03-2002, 08:20 PM
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Thanks for all the Central IL info. I didn't know there were so many folks on these boards "from these parts". I've been curious as to what WCIA in Champaign is doing on the remote chance I could pick-up their signal over here in Bloomington. Or if a similar pattern would happen at WMBD out of Peoria (aren't they owned by the same folks). I was sure hoping for a CBS HDTV feed given their sports programming and overall commitment to HD.

I had good correspondence about a year ago with the gm of WMBD (even though he said they wouldn't approve my waiver) and he indicated that they hoped to be digital by May 2002. That gm left and now no one will respond to my emails or queries. Same with the Peoria ABC affiliate. At least the NBC station replied that mid-2003 was his estimate. He indicated that they couldn't get the needed equipment for the conversion because orders weren't being filled and there are too few vendors. whatever.

I wonder if the ABC station out of Decatur will be strong enough for Bloomington?
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post #9 of 14 Old 04-04-2002, 04:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by dgreen
He indicated that they couldn't get the needed equipment for the conversion because orders weren't being filled and there are too few vendors.
Gee, the station's only known for what, 4 or 5 years that this date was coming and now won't make the 5/1/2002 date because of equipment delivery problems. The FCC should be shot for granting them an extension unless they fined them a couple of hundred of thousands of dollars. Whatever they needed should have been at least ordered long ago, why wait to the last minute. Don't blame the vendors, it's the stations fault!
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post #10 of 14 Old 04-04-2002, 05:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by rad
But that's only true if the local stations is owned and operated by CBS and you are not in ANY other CBS's station grade B signal. So the station in Peoria would still have to grant a waiver to receive the Dish (not DirecTV) WCBS-DT signal.
After checking with downtown, that CBS-DT waiver is not a local station option. CBS has granted a blanked waiver to ANYONE wanting to receive CBS-DT.
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post #11 of 14 Old 04-04-2002, 09:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by gmichael


After checking with downtown, that CBS-DT waiver is not a local station option. CBS has granted a blanked waiver to ANYONE wanting to receive CBS-DT.
OK, I'm in Mundelein which is in the Chicago DMA, covered by WBBM-TV, a CBS O&O. I tried to get the WCBS-DT from Dish feed since I can't get WBBM-DT yet and the request was denied because the CBS station in Milwakuee, for which I'm in the grade B area rejected the waiver. I called the station GM, Jim Hall, and he refused to grant the waiver. I talked to Chuck DeCourt at WBBM, he called Mr Hall, still no luck.

A friend at work that lives in Lake in the Hills, also in the Chicago DMA just last week tried to get WCBS-DT via Dish and he was told no joy until a waiver from the CBS station in Rockford grants him a waiver (at least their managament is more reasonible and said they would grant the waiver).

Now if I lived about 10 miles further south I would be out of the Milwaukee grade B and the wouldn't be a problem since no other station covers that area. So I would double check with Dish about being able to get the WCBS-DT feed and not assume that you will get it no problems.
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post #12 of 14 Old 04-04-2002, 01:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally posted by dgreen

I wonder if the ABC station out of Decatur will be strong enough for Bloomington?
I think you should be able to get WAND if it is at full power. You're less than 60 miles from Decatur, so a decent UHF yagi should get the signal fine. Do you get their analog signal now?

As for WCIA, indeed, I am getting their digital signal on 48-2 and 48-3 (48-2 is WCIA, 48-3 is the new UPN channel in Springfield). My RCA DTC100 shows signal strength of 82 with my Radio Shack VHF/UHF antenna pointed for max signal. But since I live in Savoy, I'm probably only 15 miles or less from the transmitter. I have no idea if you could pick this up from Bloomington, but since the transmitter is on the west side of Champaign, you might have a shot, especially if you live on the south/east side of Bloomington.

I still haven't heard a word from either the Fox or NBC affiliates, but the FCC database doesn't show a request for extension. So I'll do a channel sweep on May 1 and see what I get, then post results.

WILL indicated that they will meet the 5/1/03 deadline and will carry the PBS HD stuff when they get the transmitter up. But we're still a year away for them.

By the way, it might be helpful for folks who are interested in HD in Central IL to e-mail all the station managers/engineering folks. I don't think any of the station managers have a clue that ANYONE in their market area is capable of getting the digital signal. If enough folks e-mail Perry Chester at WCIA to complain about not getting CBS HD, then maybe he'll take the hint (probably not, but who knows).

John C.
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post #13 of 14 Old 04-08-2002, 03:53 AM
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I recently found out the Samsung OTA receiver (SIR-T150) that Best Buy is selling is having problems with WCIA's signal. They are in contact with Samsung to try and determine what is causing it. In any case, might hold off buying this unit. However, the Toshiba works great. I hope to get the 8-VSB unit for my Dish 6000 to test WCIA's signal here in Springfield from their WCFN transmitter repeater.

Both digital transmitters are running low power, about 1.5KW ERP, so both cities of license (Champaign, Springfield Il )should have a strong signal. Good luck!
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post #14 of 14 Old 04-08-2002, 12:23 PM
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If you are in central Illinois you might also try 38-1 38-2 WQAD out of moline, I am in peoria and pick them up pretty good most nights with a 4 bay bowtie on the garage. I will be moving up to a blake yagi on a mast 12 feet above the roofline with a rotor and should be able to get it all the time along with springfield and champaign.

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