Elliott Block's low-power Channel 25 – branded as "WKRP TV" – switched frequencies on Nov. 1, leading some over-the-air viewers to think the station had gone off the air.
And even better news: Block has secured a permanent digital channel to remain on the air after most Cincinnati TV stations change digital channels sometime in 2019.
As I wrote last December in "3 Area Stations Going Dark In 2018," the Federal Communications Commission has ordered a huge nationwide TV channel realignment (called the "repack") to make more of the broadcast spectrum available for cell phone and other wireless companies.
WHY THIS IS HAPPENING: Under the "repack," TV stations are being squeezed into digital Channels 2-36 from the current digital Channels 2-55. To make room for stations on the lower channels, some broadcasters agreed in early 2017 to be paid to cease operation, like Block's WOTH-TV (Channel 20) on Jan. 23 this year.
(In the 2009 switch from analog to digital, TV stations were issued new digital channel assignments -- but viewers still see their old 5, 9, 12, 19, 48 channels virtually on their TV sets to avoid confusion.)
CHANNEL 25 MOVE: On Nov. 1, Block's WKRP TV (technically WBQC-TV) was required to move from digital Channel 25 to digital Channel 20 for about a year. Viewers who can't receive the station over-the-air should rescan their old converter boxes and TV tuners, Block says.
Block broadcasts 12 digital subchannels on WKRP, including four rescued from old WOTH. See the list at the bottom of this blog.
BIG SWITCH IN 2019: Sometime late next year, all Cincinnati channels (except WKRC-TV) will change to new digital channels by installing new transmitters on their towers. Only over-the-air viewers may notice the difference in the end, and need to rescan their TV tuners. Cable and satellite viewers won't detect any change.
In the big switch, WLWT-TV will move from digital Channel 35 to digital Channel 20. So Block's WKRP TV will move again to digital Channel 28 – after public TV station WPTO-TV moves from digital Channel 28 to Channel 29.
"It's like a big game of musical chairs next year," Block says.
The good news is that Block is still in the game. A year ago, when I first wrote about the FCC "repack," Block didn't have a new frequency yet for his low-power TV station. He was still waiting to see if there was room for him on the TV dial after all the pieces fell into place for the full-power stations in our region – Cincinnati, Covington, Dayton, Lexington, Louisville, Columbus and Indianapolis.
In exchange for shutting down WOTH-TV, Block was paid $13.2 million from the $19.8 billion the FCC raised by auctioning off part of the spectrum in April 2017. The FCC says $7.3 billion from the spectrum sale was applied to reducing the federal deficit. Auction proceeds also will compensate TV stations for new transmitters and antennae needed for their channel moves in 2019.
Dayton's WBDT-TV (CW affiliate Channel 26) and WKOI-TV (Channel 43 in Richmond, Ind.) moved their programming to a digital subchannel sharing arrangement on Dayton's WDTN-TV (Channel 2).
You can see a list of Cincinnati's 2019 digital channel changes on the RabbitEars site.
BLOCK'S CHANNEL LINEUP: And here are the 12 multiplex channels broadcast by WKRP TV on digital Channel 20. Despite the recent digital channel relocation, Block has kept the networks listed under their old analog channels to minimize viewer confusion:
Channel 20.1: Movies! From 21st Century Fox and Weigel Broadcasting.
Channel 20.2: Decades from CBS and Weigel Broadcasting (Family Affair, Mary Tyler Moore, Laugh-In, Ed Sullivan Show, The Honeymooners, Newhart, Dick Cavett).
Channel 20.3: Quest TV science and adventure programming from Cooper Media (Modern Marvels, Storm Chasers, Auction Kings).
Channel 20.4: Heroes & Icons from Weigel Broadcasting (House, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Nash Bridges).
Channel 25.1: Cozi TV from NBCUniversal (Emergency!, Magnum P.I., Little House on the Prairie, Frasier, Will & Grace, Murder She Wrote).
Channel 25.2: This TV movies from MGM and Tribune Broadcasting.
Channel 25.3: Get TV from Sony Pictures Television (Airwolf, Walker Texas Ranger, All In The Family, Married…With Children, Sanford and Son).
Channel 25.4: Jewelry TV home shopping.
Channel 25.5 Light TV operated by MGM Television (Highway to Heaven, Patty Duke Show, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?).
Channel 25.6: SonLife Broadcasting Network from Jimmy Lee Swaggart's TV ministry.
Channel 25.7: Home Shopping Network.
Channel 25.8: Evine Live home shopping.