Three area TV stations – with more than a dozen channels of programming – will cease to exist in 2018.
Elliott Block's WOTH-TV (Channel 20), Trinity Broadcasting's WKOI-TV (Channel 43) and Dayton CW affiliate WBDT-TV (Channel 26), have accepted millions of dollars to relinquish their frequencies in a huge nationwide TV channel realignment.
Called the "repack," the move makes more of the broadcast spectrum available for cell phone and other wireless companies.
TV stations are being squeezed into digital Channels 2-36, from the current digital Channels 2-55. Some TV stations were paid to go away after a Federal Communications Commission auction in April to make room for other stations to move to lower channels.
(In the 2009 switch from analog to digital, TV stations were issued new digital channel assignments -- but viewers still see their old channels (5, 9, 12, 19, 48) virtually on their TV sets to avoid confusion.)
The first to vanish will be WOTH-TV on Jan. 23. Channel 20 has started warning viewers it will end telecasts, as required by the FCC.
"We must notify viewers 30 days in advance. Because of the holidays, we posted it early," Block says.
In April, the FCC raised $19.8 billion by auctioning off parts of the spectrum, starting a 39-month transition for TV stations, says Jay Adrick, a TV engineer and former teacher who is helping Cavell Mertz & Associates with the repack.
According to FCC documents, Block will receive $13.2 million for WOTH-TV. Owners of WBDT-TV will get $27.3 million. Trinity Broadcasting gets $20 million for WKOI-TV. (The FCC says $7.3 billion was applied to reducing the federal deficit. Auction proceeds also will compensate TV stations for the new transmitters and antennae needed to move their channels in 2019, Adrick says.)
Going away are the eight WOTH-TV multicast channels:
Channel 20.1: Movies
Channel 20.2: Decades nostalgia shows ("Ed Sullivan," "Dick Cavett," "Laugh-In").
Channel 20.3: BUZZR game shows ("Family Feud," "Match Game," "What's My Line," "I've Got A Secret."
Channel 20.4: Heroes & Icons ("NYPD Blue," "Hill Street Blues," "Star Trek," "Rawhide," "Maverick").
Channel 20.5: Newsmax TV (shows include "J.D. Hayworth on Newsmax TV," hosted by the former Channel 5 sports anchor turned Arizona congressman).
Channel 20.6: The Action Channel ("Fishin' 4 Fun," "Sports Stars of Tomorrow").
Channel 20.7: HSN, Home Shopping Network.
Channel 20.8: Evine home shopping.
Block says he's "trying to make room" for some of the WOTH-TH networks on his sister station, low-power Channel 25. It is branded as WKRP TV, although technically WBQC-TV.
"Unfortunately, not all will make the transition, as space is very limited. We can confirm Newsmax won’t make the transition to WKRP Channel 25. The network informed us they are ceasing agreements with their broadcast affiliates," says a message on the WOTHTV website.
Further complicating the TV picture is that -- as of today -- Block doesn't have a frequency for low-power Channel 25 in the FCC's repack realignment scheduled for fall 2019. First the FCC has to fit all the stations in the region – Cincinnati, Dayton, Lexington, Louisville, Columbus, etc – into new channels before seeing what's left for low-power stations.
Will WKRP/WBQC survive?
"My answer is that I don't know," Block says.
"The FCC has to get all the channels that are changing, and modifying their coverage, which was all due on Dec. 10 this year," he says. "Then they have to issue a filing window for low-power TV stations. Then we have to find a channel that will work in our area; then file for a channel change; then wait to see if the FCC agrees with us; then they will issue a construction permit; then we have to order the equipment; then we build it.
"If there is nowhere for us to go, Channel 25 will go off the air," Block says. "Think of what's happening like a musical chairs game when you were a kid. You don't want to be left standing when the music stops."
Channel 25 also multicasts eight networks: COZI TV (25.1), THIS TV (25.2), GET TV (25.3), Jewelry TV (25.4), Light TV (25.5), SonLife (25.6) Home Shopping Network (25.7) and Retro TV (25.8).
WKOI-TV (Channel 43), which has broadcast religious programming from a tower north of Hamilton since 1982, will cease operation in late April, says Ben Miller, Trinity Broadcasting Network vice president for engineering.
Although licensed to Richmond Ind., the tower and transmitter in northern Butler County broadcasts a signal which covers Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Dayton. When I last checked several years ago, Channel 43 multicast five different Christian programming channels.
WBDT-TV (Channel 26), which started 49 years ago in Springfield, is now operated by Dayton's WDTN-TV from the Channel 2 studios in Moraine, south of Dayton. Channel 26 multicasts the CW, Bounce and Ion networks.
Joe Abouzeid, president and general manager for Channels 2 and 26, did not respond to my emails. It's possible the CW could be added to Channel 2's multicast lineup. Channel 2 also broadcasts the Escape and Justice networks.
Also going off the air is a Columbus station (WSFJ-TV) and two in Louisville (WWJS-TV, WBKI-TV).