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Channel 10 going digital on schedule

APPLETON -- Pioneer Public Television Channel 10 in Appleton is among the over-the-air broadcasters planning to shut off its analog transmitters and go digital at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Les Heen, general manager of Pioneer Public Television, said the station is staying with the Tuesday transition date. It has already aired more than 20 programs to educate viewers about the transition. And, it has turned off its analog transmission on three different occasions so that viewers who are relying on it would know it, he said.

The transition to digital has been a multi-year endeavor for Pioneer, which has invested in the new equipment with opportunity in mind. The change to digital means it now offers programming on four different channels, 10.1 through 10.4.

Heen said viewers who have made the switch by adding converter boxes or purchasing digital TVs have reacted very favorably to the transition.

They appreciate the new programming as well as the high-definition viewing offered on one of the new channels, he said.

The switch to digital transmission will not affect viewers who receive television via cable systems or from low-power UHF systems like those in Willmar, Bird Island and Alexandria. The UHF systems are not making the transition Tuesday and will continue broadcasting an analog signal.

The transition affects those who rely on over-the-air signals from Pioneer Public TV, but there is no way to know how many viewers that represents, said Heen. Statewide, it is estimated that 20 percent of the population relies on over-the-air broadcast signals.

Pioneer Public TV is currently broadcasting with both analog and digital systems, and will realize savings when going to digital only. It requires more electricity to broadcast in analog, and the Appleton station has to bear the maintenance costs for an analog system soon to be obsolete, noted Heen.

He anticipates that overall, most viewers will be very pleased with the change to digital television. If there is confusion over the change, he expects most of it will be in those areas farthest from the Appleton broadcast tower. Viewers relying on a weak analog signal will discover that they need a better antenna to receive digital, he said.

The transition to digital broadcasting is not the only improvements in store at Channel 10. The Appleton station will be installing new equipment to increase the power of its broadcast signal in late summer or early autumn. That should provide a better signal for viewers in the farther reaches of its transmission range. Viewers in the Willmar to Litchfield area are among those who should realize improved reception as a result, he said.

Pioneer TV will be airing a call-in program at noon and again from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to answer questions from viewers who might still be uncertain about how to make the digital conversion. The station's staff will also be keeping the phone lines open Wednesday and Thursday for those who turn on their televisions and discover their picture is now gone.

Viewers with questions are encouraged to call Pioneer Public Television at 800-726-3178.