To digital or not to digital?
Wednesday's deadline for putting up a digital signal has most Tulsa television stations saying we would if we could but we can't.
Three will meet the deadline, six have been granted waivers, two don't have to comply until 2003 and one is waiting for an answer to its application.
The Federal Communications Commission mandated that local commercial broadcast stations have to begin carrying both an analog (in homes now) and a digital signal by May 1.
To make things even more confusing, the FCC has assigned separate digital channel numbers to each station.
Stations will retain their analog channel numbers until 2006 or whenever 85 percent of the households in the country can receive the digital signals (with the currently ultra-expensive digital TV sets.)
The FCC has not set a deadline for stations to begin airing high-definition signals.
KJRH, channel 2, flipped the switch to add its digital channel -- channel 56 -- in January.
KOTV, channel 6, and KTPX, UHF-channel 44, will join the digital revolution Wednesday on channels 55 and 28, respectively.
The stations are not required to transmit the digital signal 24 hours a day, so programming times will vary. For example, KOTV will broadcast from 7 to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 6 to 10 p.m. Sundays to take advantage of the CBS network's digitally broadcast prime-time programming. Most CBS programming is broadcast in high- definition but KOTV will not be passing through that signal yet, said Don Dobbs, director of engineering.
The rest of the stations are another story.
KRSC, UHF-channel 35, and KOED, channel 11, will not have to comply until May 2003 because they are noncommercial public television stations. Their equipment is on order.
KTUL, channel 8, which was originally assigned digital channel 58, has requested and received a six-month extension and a new number, 10. The ABC-affiliated station expects to be digitally up and running in the next three to six months, according to Pat Baldwin, president and general manager.
Tulsa's Fox affiliate KOKI, UHF-channel 23 and cable channel 5, and UPN affiliate KTFO, UHF-channel 41 and cable channel 10, also received extensions from the FCC and plan to broadcast digitally around June 15 -- KOKI on channel 22 and KTFO on channel 42.
KOKI, which launched its 9 p.m. newscast on Super Bowl Sunday, was ahead of the game. It built its new building with the digital future in mind. Installation is under way, according to Hal Capron, general manager.
KDOR, UHF-channel 17 and cable channel 17, is planning to be on air digitally on channel 15 by some time in October, according to general manager Rick Bryant.
KWHB, UHF-channel 47 and cable channel 7, has been assigned channel 48, which is where the station will begin broadcasting later this year. The station's equipment has been ordered, but has yet to arrive.
Digital channel 49 is the number assigned to KGEB, UHF-channel 53 and cable channel 23. The station expects its signal to be on air sometime within the six-month extension period, according to general manager Walter Richardson.
KWBT, UHF-channel 19 and cable channel 12, is in an odd situation. The latest Tulsa TV station to sign on (Sept. 12, 1999), the WB affiliate has a DTV application pending with the FCC and has yet to receive an answer or an assigned channel number.
Don't expect to see those local digital channels on your cable system anytime soon. That situation is still under discussion.
Rita Sherrow, World TV editor, can be reached at 581-8360 or via e-mail at rita.sherrow@ tulsaworld.com .
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