Chicago Stations Preview Analog Shut-Off

Will do “soft shutdown” next Wednesday, Nov. 12.

In the latest effort by big-market broadcasters to educate consumers about the digital TV (DTV) transition and the turnoff of analog signals that will come on Feb. 17, 2009, Chicago stations are planning a “soft shutdown” of their analog signals for next Wednesday, Nov. 12.

The soft shutdown, announced today by the Illinois Broadcasters Association, will see nearly all the full-power stations in the Chicago market cease normal programming on their analog feeds at two times during the day and replace it with a full-screen graphic steering viewers to DTV education resources. The Chicago market has approximately 300,000 households that receive their TV exclusively over-the-air according to Nielsen's latest estimates.

The Chicago tests will occur simultaneously across all broadcasters' channels at 6:53 a.m. and 5:23 p.m. on Wednesday, November 12th, 2008, and will last five minutes each, longer than the recent two-minute test done in New York last month. At exactly 6:53 a.m. on November 12th, three beeps will be heard and an on-screen graphic will appear on broadcast television stations informing the viewer that their television is "not ready" for the digital transition. The graphic will direct the viewer to call a DTV help line at 1-877-DTV-5353, and the Chicago 311 Call Center will help answer viewer questions.

Stations will also place a graphic crawl on their digital broadcasts to indicate that the TV set receiving them is ready for digital, either through an over-the-air DTV receiver or cable or satellite service, but to check other sets in the home for readiness.

"The diversity and size of the Chicago market challenges us to communicate this upcoming change to digital television in every manner possible,” said Emily Barr, President and General Manager of ABC owned-and-operated WLS, in a statement. “While we have all done a thorough job of producing and airing countless public service announcements and conducting many consumer education programs throughout the community, it is our hope that this 'soft-test' will serve as the strongest possible reminder to all viewers that February 17, 2009 is right around the corner.”