TV stations adding extra channels as analog goes away

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Posted by on March 19, 2009 at 11:36:00:

TV stations adding extra channels as analog goes away

Channels you can get with rabbit ears multiply like bunnies in Chicago

March 19, 2009

BY MARY HOULIHAN | Chicago Sun-Times

Television viewers without cable or satellite connections are about to enter a brave new digital world. Analog TV, on the air for nearly 70 years, is pretty much going away forever. But the transfer to digital signals is allowing local stations to add a variety of additional channels; offerings vary from station to station.

At the very least, each local station has an extra channel simulcasting its current programming, but in high definition for HD television sets.

"This move keeps alive the promise of free broadcast television, and that's very important," said Michael Niederman, chairman of the Columbia College Chicago television department. "For people who don't have cable or satellite, it'll be a more bountiful universe."

After June 12, older televisions not hooked up to cable or satellite will be useless unless they're hooked up to a set-top digital tuner. An antenna also will be needed to pick up the digital signal; most existing models will work.

The Federal Communications Commission said this week that all Chicago area television stations plan to turn off their analog signals on June 12, except WYCC-Channel 20, which will shut it down April 16.

Normal programming from those channels will continue to be broadcast, just with new over-the-air signals that viewers can receive on new TVs or older ones equipped with digital tuners. Those viewers also will get the new "subchannels," offering news, children's programs, foreign-language shows and other content (see related article).

Some cable and satellite companies will offer subchannels on their basic packages. They won't follow numerically but will be put on the lineup where there is room. For instance, WTTW-Channel 11's new "Prime" at Channel 11.2 will be on Channel 243 on Comcast.

"Homes with digital-only television will easily find these new channels," said Ellen Crawley, vice-president of programming, acquisitions and research at WLS-Channel 7. "Cable and satellite subscribers will have to do some searching."

The reason those subscribers are unaffected is that cable and satellite companies convert the signals so all customers can receive them, no matter what kind of TV they have. The transfer is being done to give more room on the airwaves to wireless broadband, TV for cell phones and emergency communications.

(For information on how to get a $40 coupon toward a tuner, go to

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