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Post-partem transmission

So here we are. The first full day of the digital-only era of television in Wilmington. All of us who work in TV in the market and, especially, all of us who watch it, are part of history long in the making. The days of staticky TV are gone. Replaced by crystal clear audio and video... unless you have some dropout, the digital version of static, during which your picture or audio may not come in. Hopefully, though, anyone suffering any problems from the digital switch will be able to iron out the wrinkles, perhaps with a new/better antenna.

For those of us in TV, this has been a long, slow trip. I remember as a student at the University of Georgia in the late '90s studying changes dictated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the first major overhaul of the laws and regulations governing TV, radio, telephone and other industries in decades. At that time, TV stations and networks were doing their first trials of DTV and HDTV. And at that time, the government decided to require broadcasters to make the switch from analog to digital. But for various reasons, the original deadline was pushed back to February 17, 2009. Of course, back in May, we found out our market would make the move early. And at noon yesterday, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin flipped the ceremonial switch marking the beginning of the next chapter in TV history.

In the next days, weeks and months, we will likely learn of hitches and even bigger problems with the DTV switch. That's why the FCC asked us to do this early. But keep in mind that as the 134th largest TV market in the country (out of 210), the 187,480 TV households in our five-county area represent just .164% of all the TV viewership in the country. So you can imagine some other markets will likely have problems we avoided, especially when you consider how much was spent to educate viewers here. In other words, you should feel lucky, in a way, that we went through all this together. Our relatively small market was given a level of attention even the biggest market, each with millions of viewers, will not receive. And many of those markets have far more people who will be directly affected by the loss of analog signals that we were.

We were part of history yesterday. We were also part of the greater good. The spotlight is still on us as we adjust to our new reality. But that spotlight is dimming. Soon, we will go back to just being the jewel of a region we have all come to love. There will be no more FCC commissioners visiting, no more news crews from Japan trying to learn from us ahead of their switch, no more scrutiny in the national media. But our role in the biggest change in the way we watch TV since black and white began to give way to color is undeniable. And one day, years from now, when the next big change occurs, we can all say we remember when we were the pioneers.

By: Kevin Wuzzardo

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