(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson,


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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 50 - - -

    Panic and fear--these are evident in the television industry today, I think.  First, I believe television programmers and executives are in a panic like never before, given, for instance, there are so many networks and there are declining ratings for shows on broadcast television and cable television because of the over-playing of product.  Second, I feel some television viewers are being put in a panic, fearing they have to quickly run out and get converter boxes for their analog television sets (and some persons because of panic have ended up in a bad position--they have already used their discount coupons before the coupons were to expire and before the stores had "pass-through-analog" converter boxes in good supply and for purchase).

    Oh, well!

    And now I present another edition of T.H.A.T.

    In the past, through editions of T.H.A.T., I have talked about television-program-listings publications, one of which is TV Guide.  Over the last year or so at least, I coudl say that publication called Select TV (a weekly publication associated with the Daily Tribune (of the Detroit area)) was about the best television-program-lisings publication of the area, since it was covering all day-parts, though without very little detail about shows (at least, a person could get an indication about what was happening 24-hours a day as a rule).  I have to report this: The last edition of Select TV was issued for the week of April 27-May 2, 2008, and now the Daily Tribune has no full-week television-program-listings publication (or section).  The newspaper noted on page one of the edition for Sunday, May 11, 2008 (Parra, Jeffrey.  "Tribune works to give readers more." Daily Tribune, 11 May 2008, pp. 1A and 2A.) one reason why the newspaper no longer issues a program guide--"...We are working to provide more colorful front page and section fronts to better reflect our dynamic community, expanded coverage of boating and outdoor pursuits, including a column written by Royal Oak's own Terry Drinkwine, a comprehensive look at our community organizations provided twice a week by Jeanne Towar, and regular local features including tips for a healthy environment provided by local environmentalist Barbara Johnson...."

    Editorial comment: The text quoted in the previous paragraph shows many things.  It is nonsence thought, especially the part related to "including tips for a healthy environment."  It shows the newspaper is more concerned with flash and color than with fact and real information (they seem to think, if you make it pretty and colorful,  it is good).  It also shows foolish thinking by the operators of the newspaper--they are more concerned with pushing issues--which can be called a "political agenda"--about "healthy environment" (such vague thought).  It shows the newpaper has forgotten what the regular person really wants and should have as news and information.

    Incidentally, the edition of the Daily Tribune for Sunday, May 11, 2008, also had on page one and page two this article: "Tribune publisher retires from post" (McConnell, Michael.  "Tribune publisher retires from post." Daily Tribune, 11 May 2008, pp. 1A and 2A.).

    Let me return to the topic of TV Guide, a publication that has been losing readership for months and months and months (I will not list for how long since I do not have the statistics, but I have seen evidence about it losing readers, such as in articles about TV Guide in the weekly publication Broadcasting & Cable--articles that note, for one, that the publication will sometime in the future be put up for sale).  In October 2005, TV Guide took on a new format (going from a digest-type-magazine format to a regular-magazine format), and since then, I have talked about problems with the magazine, and one problem has been the cutting back of information on when shows are going to air.  When the change in the magazine took place, the publishers promoted the idea that each edition had "39 pages" of listings.  Wow!  In the beginning, it had some information--program grids--about daytime shows and late-night shows.  If you look at TV Guide today, you will see only information--program grids--about the prime-time schedules (it was the edition of TV Guide for January 7-13, 2008, when the publishers began to carry only prime-time listings).

    Editoral comment: TV Guide has a lot of colorful pictures and fluff articles, but the real useful information, such as that which allows a person to see what will be showing up on the screen over the next week, is lacking, and the publishers of TV Guide wonder why they have been losing readers.

    Editorial comment: Of course, TV Guide and other entities have electronic-program guides for people to use, and one of the other entities is a company called "TitanTV."  I have seen program-guides, and they are shallow in their presentation, and I have found, when I go to a Web site of a television station to see what was aired within the past week, the past information was not available.  Electronic-program guides, which are poor "publications of record," are the way of the future it seems.  Ugh!

    In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I talked about the shallow offerings of two television programs about the forthcoming fully digital-television age, and I urged you to not buy any digital-to-analog television-converter box till you read this edition of T.H.A.T., and now I provide more about the the fully digital-television age, making sure to give you information about digital-to-analog television-converter boxes.

    Here I must make clear what viewers in the Detroit area can pick up on television sets through antenna systems, and I am only talking about analog signals.  There are these Detroit-area based full-power television stations: WJBK-TV (Channel 2), which is a Fox TV affiliate; WDIV-TV (Channel 4),. which is an NBC-TV affiliate; WXYZ-TV (Channel 7), which is an ABC-TV affiliate; WMYD-TV (Channel 20), which is a MyNetworkTV affiliate; WPXD-TV (Channel 31), which is an affiliate of ion television; WADL-TV (Channel 38), which is considered an "independent," though it does carry programming of the "Word Network"; WKBD-TV (Channel 50), which is an affiliate of The CW network; WTVS-TV (Channel 56), which is an affiliate of PBS; and WWJ-TV (Channel 62), which is an affiliate of CBS-TV.

    Hold it!  I have to define what "low-power" televison stations are.  Up to this point, I have used the term "low-power" television stations loosely--really, the category is made up of three subcatetories.  One subcategory is the "Class-A station," each of which broacasts at much lower levels than full-power stations broadcast, must follow the non-technical rules of full-power stations (such as the rule about being able to broadcast the Emergency Alert System alerts), must broadcast at least 18 hours a day, and must broadcast at least (as an average) three hours of locally produced programming a week (the Class A station idea came about through the Community Broadcasters Protection Act of 1999).  Class A stations were created out of some Lower-Power Televison stations (or LPV stations), which had been created in 1982 and had links in history to "translators" or "translator stations."  You should see "low-power television stations" as another subcategory of the overall "low-power" television-stations idea, and such stations broadcast at low powers (when compared with full-power television stations), and, in essence, they carry original programming--such as locally produced programs, syndicated programs, infomercials, and network programs.  "Translators" are the other subcategory of the "low-power" television-stations idea, and, generally speaking, the purpose of a translator is to broadcast the signal of a full-power television to an area or location that the signal of full-power television station cannot reach--such as a rural town (a translator broadcasts the programming of a full-power station).

    These are the stations that I know about for this report that can be grouped together under the loosely defined umbrella of "low-power stations" based in the Detroit area: Channel 18 (which is WDWO-CA and which offers viewers religious-based programming); Channel 23 (which is WUDT-CA and which is a Spanish-language station affiliated with the Univision network); Channel 26 (WLPC, which is a Class A station and which offers religious based programming); Channel 33 (which the operators identify on the screen as WHPR-TV, though it is a Class A station); Channel 48 (which is W48AV and which is a translator station for WPXD-TV, Channel 31, of Ann Arbor); and Channel 66 (which is W66BV and which is affiliated with TBN, which offers religious-based programming).

    Besides stations that are based in Detroit, there are these stations from Canada that people in the Detroit area can pick up: Channel 9 (CBET-TV); Channel 16 (known as "A Channel"); Channel 32 (CICO-TV, which is often called "TVO"); and Channel 54 (which is CEFT-TV, which is related to CBLFT-TV in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and which has a lot of French-language programming).

    At the moment, I have information that Canada--based on Canadian law--does not go to fully-digital status.till August 31, 2011.

    Remember: The television stations in Canada are not obligated to follow the U.S.A. law about the shutting off of analog signals by full-power stations at the end of the day for February 17, 2009, which is a date that does not apply to "low-power" television stations of the U.S. (the cut-off day for lower-power stations in the U.S. is sometime in the future, is unset, and may be sometime in 2012, which is the only date that I have seen discusssed).

    By the way, people in the Detroit area--depending on where they are in the area--can even pick up signals from television stations in Flint (Michigan) and from television stations from Toledo, Ohio (some of which are as Channel 11, Channel 13, Channel 24, and Channel 30), but these stations are being left out of my discussion.

    When the day ends for February 17, 2009, full-power television stations in the U.S. are--as it is required today--supposed to stop broadcasting in "analog" form and only broadcast in "digital" form (generally speaking, each full-power television station is broadcasting an "analog" signal and a "digital" signal today).  On February 18, 2009, people who have analog-based television sets (those without "digital"-type tuners) and who only receive television through regular antenna sytems, such as roof-top antennas (not the disc type) or "rabbit-ear"-type antennas will not be able to watch television, unless they do something that allows them to see television.  To solve the problem, a person could buy a television set with a digital-type tuner.  To solve the problem, a person could begin to subscribe to a "direct-to-home-by-satellite television sevice" or a "cable service" or a service provided by a telephone-service-type company.  To solve the problem, a person could get a "digital-to-analog" television converter box, which may or may not have to be used with additional equipment, and such a digital-to-analog television converter box gets attached to the analog-based televison set.

    Editorial comment: The "digital-to-analog" television converter box" idea has been a mess as far as I am concerned.  For one, the federal government put the public in a panic--issuing discount coupons for such devices that had 90- day expiration dates--though the television industry did not have a lot of units with "analog-pass-through capability" (or "analog-channel-pass-through capability") on the market.  Also, as I have noted, television programs about the forthcoming digital television age have provided poor information about such devices (I have not seen any program that has talked about "analog-channel-pass-through capability").

    Now, I begin the discussion of "digital-to-analog" television converter boxes," and, really, the story offers what I learned about the devices from late March 2008 through the date that this edition of T.H.A.T. was published, and from what I learned and now know, I say that you should get only a digital-to-analog television converter box that has a "pass-through-analog " feature."  Such a feature allows you to get signals from stations that do not change to all-digital at the end of the day on February 17, 2009, and, of course, those are the stations that are considered "low-power stations" and, if you live near Canada, stations that broadcast from Canada.  It is unfortunate some people bought "digital-to-analog television converter boxes" without the pass-through-analog feature; they spent money that they should not have had to spend (such as on something that could act as a "A/B" switch) or will have to spend more money (if they decide to change to "digital-to-analog television converter boxes" that have the pass-through-analog feature (they wasted a discount coupon or discount coupons)).

    Let me describe what an "A/B" switch might be like.  It is a routing device of sorts that sets up a connection between a television set and digital-to-analog television converter box in one switch position and between a television set and an antenna that can pick up the analog over-the-air signals that are yet flying around in the other switch position.  Turn the switch one way, and the television set gets the signals that come out of a digital-to-analog" television converter box, and turn the switch the other way, and the television set gets what comes from the analog antenna.

    In this story about digital-to-analog television converter boxes, I cannot directly promote which digital-to-analog television converter box is the best to buy, since I have not had access to all the units that are available in the marketplace.  I started my search for information about digital-to-analog" television converter boxes" at a Radio Shack Store in Rogers City (in Presque Isle County of  the Lower Peninsula), and I talked with William Friedhoff, and, at the time, he talked about two units that he was able to sell, and the units were the Zenith DTT900 and the Digital Stream DTX900.  Remember: William Friedhoff is obligated to promote what is available through his store, but he did note that an associate or friend had tested four different units, and the unit that worked the best was the Zenith DTT900.  Several weeks later--on Sunday, May 11, 2008--I spent several hours going to electornic stores in the Detroit area.  I spoke with Clarence M. Novess III (also known as "CM Novess" or only "CM") at a Radio Shack Store in Ferndale (of Oakland County in the Lower Peninsula), and he told me a little more about the digital-to-analog" television converter boxes available through Radio Shack Stores, and, also, he noted how he was sellling a "High Isolation A/B Switch" (model 15-1217 for $14.99, which is something that could act as an "A/B" switch).  Later, I learned through a staffer at a Circuit City store that a Zenith DTT901 was to become available soon, and the unit would have the pass-through-analog feature.  The store was selling the Zenith DTT900 only.  A Best Buy Store had the Insignia NS-DXA1 for sale, and this unit, which is made by the maker of the Zenith units, did not have the pass-through-analog feature, and a staffer that I talked with at the store noted that there were two different products that he would recommend as "A/B switch"-type units--a Dynex DX-AV100 (which costs about $20.99) and an RCA CRF940 (which is a combination RF modulator and switch and which costs about $41.99), and a person who had to chose one of  the units would have to get the unit that would work with the television set the person had (and what connection points that set had).  I went to a Wal-Mart store, and the store had a Magnavox TB100MW9 on display, and no units were available in the store, and if  there would have been, a unit would have cost $49.87 (the unit did not have the pass-through-analog feature).  I went to a Meijer's store, and a staffer there said that the store did not have any digital-to-analog" television converter box for sale, but he noted that, it seems, the store would have some type of Philco-brand unit for purchase within a week.  On that May 11 research day, a staffer at a Target Store reported that the store was not carrying or selling digital-to-analog" television converter boxes.  On Thursday, May 15, 2008, I was able to get to an ABC Appliance store, and, on that day, the store offered an Access HD unit, which was model DTA1010D and did not have the pass-through-analog feature, and a Philco TB100HH9, which was said to have the pass-through-analog feature and cost about $59.00 (a salesman ushered me over to a stack of the non-pass-through-analog units and only headed me in the direction of the pass-through-analog unnits after I asked when he would have models that have the pass-through-analog feature (which he noted had arrived recently)).

    In late winter 2007/2008 (around February 2008), people could apply for "discount coupons" from the federal government (two coupons, each of which was worth $40.00) that could be used to off set the cost by buying digital-to-analog" television converter boxes.  Some of the first people to receive "discount coupons" from the federal government that could be used to purchase digital-to-analog" television converter boxes received, with the coupons, information about a few of the digital-to-analog" television converter boxes that were available in the marketplace, and most of those listed did not have the pass-through-analog feature, and, it seems, I was one of the first to receive coupons, which had expiration dates of June 27, 2008.  By June 10, 2008, I had yet to spend money on any digital-to-analog" television converter boxes and use the coupons, waiting to find good units with the pass-through-analog feature.

    Editorial comment: It was really "dumb" of the federal government to offer coupons with expiration dates, when most of the early digital-to-analog television converter boxes did not have the pass-through-analog feature or when few of the early digital-to-analog television converter boxes with the pass-through-analog feature were available in stores.  People were given coupons to save money on digital-to-analog television converter boxes, but then they might have had or they will have to spend unnecessarily for "A/B switches" and such.  There was bad planning!

    When you are making a decision about what digital-to-analog television converter box to buy, make sure your decision about which unit to buy involves at least these thoughts.  Make sure your decision does make you choose a unit that is sold with a remote.  I recommend you get a unit that has the pass-through-analog feature.  Consider looking at reviews, such as those put out by the publishers of Consumer Reports (On May 18, 2008, I found "Digital TV converter boxes: First Look.  Previews of the Magnavox TB100MW9, Insignia NS-DXA1, and Zenith DTT900" at ConsumerReports.org), and, by the time you read this edition of T.H.A.T., the publishers of Consumer Reports might have issued other reviews that compare units).  You might consider buying two different units to see which works best where you live and with the antenna system that you have and return one unit later (do report to the sales staffer at the time you buy the units that you are going to test both and return one after you test both).

    I know a number of disadvantges of the digital-to-analog" televisionconverter-box idea when a person uses a VHS-type tape recorder with a television or if a person has a analog television set in which a VHS-type tape recorder exists inside.  If a person uses a VHS-type tape recorder with an analog television set, the person will discover several problems.  One problem is a converter box can only put out one channel at a time, so when it is connected to a tape recorder that is then connected to a television, a person can record a particular channel (maybe Channel 7) and see the same channel on the television set at the same time, but a person cannot record a program on one channel (such as Channel 56) and, at the same time, view a program on another channel (such as Channel 9); the only way to record one channel and view another is to use the television set in conjunction with a "A/B switch" unit and two digital-to-analog" television converter boxes.  If the television has a built in VHS-type tape recorder within it, the person will discover that the person can only record one channel at a time in relation to multiple recordings, and the person will discover the person cannot set up the in-the-future recording system so that the television set will record something on one channel one day and record something on another channel on the next day (the person has lost the ability to record multiple programs involving more than one channel).

    Remember: In the marketplace for sale are "DVR" type units (which are also known as digital video recorders, the history of which goes back to 1998, when TiVo devices were being tested, and to 1999 when TiVo devices and ReplayTV devices became commercially available).

    And that ends the talk about the digital television age for now.

    At the end of the provious edition of T.H.A.T., I gave you a trivia question to answer, and now I will give you the answer to the question.  Remember: The question dealt with such characters as Alex Vandervoort and Edwina Dorsey and what televison show that they were in.  It was a "money" question--of sorts.  The answer is Kirk Douglas (as Alex Vandervoort) and Anne Baxter (as Edwina Dorsey) and others appeared in the four-part The Moneychangers on NBC-TV beginning on Saturday, December 4, 1976.

    And here is the trivia question that you should try to answer by the time you see the next edition of T.H.A.T.--"What was the name of the eight-part 1988 television series about television that was hosted by Edwin Newman?"

    Oh, I should say this: A person living in the Detroit area who uses an antenna-feed analog television set that is connected to a digital-to-analog converter box with the analog-pass-through feature could receive up to 24 stations (nine full-power Detroit stations, up to six low-power stations, up to four full-power Toledo-based stations, up to four full-power Canadian stations, and maybe a full-power station of  Flint) or, really, up to at least 42 channels of programming since digital stations broadcast subchannels (the total number of channels could be well over 42 channels because digital-based low-power stations can have subchannels, and Canadian digital-based stations can have subchannels), and again I wonder: Why should someone spend money on cable television service or direct-to-home-by-satellite television service when there are dozens and dozens of free television channels available?

Stay well!


copyright c. 2008
Date published: June 10, 2008

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