On the evening of Wednesday, December 17th, the leadership of all of the commercial television stations in Columbus gathered at WOSU to take part in a special phone bank.
At 7:30 that evening, the Columbus broadcast stations posted a slate on the screen for five minutes, which basically said that if you are seeing this, you need to do something or your television signal will go away in two months. The screen was only transmitted over-the-air to analog viewers throughout central Ohio.
This was part of a statewide and national effort to signal the change to digital television and provide information to those unaware of the federally mandated switch on February 17th. What happened? Well, the phones at WOSU didn’t ring off the hook as expected, at first. The national phone bank hired to handle the calls was designed to provide information about common questions and then send viewers to the local phone bank. Unfortunately, the national phone bank was overwhelmed by calls starting at 7:30 pm and many people could not get through.
Working with Christine Merritt of the Ohio Association of Broadcasters, the local managers decided to bypass the national phones and promote the local number with a crawl on the screen. Once the crawl showed up, the phones started going strong and we counted about 350 calls over an hour or so period.
Many of the callers wanted to know if the federal coupons were available and we had that information at the ready. Others had the converters, but had signal issues and we discussed placement of antennas. There are folks who have been getting analog TV fine who will have to invest in an outside antenna to get digital signals. There are so many converter boxes out there that it was most difficult to help people with those issues, but the folks we had here did their very best.
It’s likely we’ll try this again on January 12th, so stay tuned for a post about that evening. Remember that while many have cable or satellite in Columbus, there are an “estimated” 100,000 households who have over-the-air free TV as their primary provider. That translates into over 200,000 people. And that doesn’t even count those of us with over-the-air on our third televisions.
A side note — my 15 year old daughter asked me last night to fix her bedroom TV, which gets over the air digital TV with a zenith converter box. She wanted to watch WOSU Create, which she has become addicted to. I simply moved her rabbit ears antenna about three inches (toward our tower in Westerville) and things cleared up nicely. I wish all the digital TV issues were that easy!
A glimpse behind the scenes of the telephone action at WOSU when the analog signal was shut down briefly:
Category: DTV transition