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TV Channel Reassignments Impacting Capital Region

To make way for new technology like 5G and other wireless services, the Federal Communications Commission is assigning over-the-air television stations to new channels, including many in the Albany area.

More than 1,000 television stations nationwide are changing frequencies through July 2020. Every Albany channel except for WRGB 6, WNYT 13, WYBN 14 and Utica's WKTV 2 are moving or have moved.

Jean Kiddoo chairs the FCC's Incentive Auction Task Force.   "Television stations will be notifying all of their viewers with screen crawls, you know, those messages that go across the bottom or the top of the screen, or public service announcements at least 30 days in advance of their re-scan day. The television will need to be re-tuned, re-scanned, to be able to obtain those new frequencies. If a viewer wakes up one day and can't find a station, probably the right thing to do will be to re-scan because they may have missed the notice. If you're a cable or satellite subscriber, your provider will take care of the re-scanning for you, you won't have to do anything. You will see the messages because the stations of course are broadcasting the messages on their channels so they're going to all viewers, but only the viewers who watch using an indoor or rooftop antenna will need to actually do the re-scan."

There are four weeks left for area stations to move to new assigned frequencies. Because TV channels are moving at different times, you may need to rescan your TV set more than once.

Last September, Channel 14 moved from Windham in Greene County to the Helderberg Mountains, just outside Albany. Station president and general manager Dan Viles notes WYBN, which offers a digital lineup of eight unique channels, is not subject to the re-pack, and despite moving to the local “antenna farm,” will not appear on Spectrum, the Capital Region’s major cable provider.    "All of New York and the East Coast is handled out of a head-end, a 'super head-end' they call it, in Syracuse. So what they do is they catch the signals here, they send them by fiber to that super head-end, and that gives them a big advantage when they're negotiating with TV stations, full power and low power. So we've had a good response from Germantown Telephone and a good response from Middleburgh Telephone, Midtel. And we're going through the testing phase and all that. It's not a slam-dunk that we get on them, but at least we're talking to each other. The other eight cable systems that I have sent out to including Spectrum, we've decided that the money invested is not worth the return," said Viles.

Followthis link for a good article explaining the advantages of over-the-air TV.

Viles believes that at the rate subscribers are "cutting the cord," it’s wiser to invest in equipment and programming rather than paying fees to be carried by cable. He notes that Albany area viewers will soon be able to watch a major national player.   "Channel 55 ION has just applied to the FCC three or four weeks ago with an extensive engineering document. They're moving from their tower in Amsterdam to the tower next to us, and they're gonna be switching channels to channel 19. They're gonna just splash into a whole new very populated area, and that should bode well for their viewership. ION's been kind of like this station on the edge, but in a lot of cities where they have a good signal, they're very competitive."

ION offers six digital feeds including reruns of highly-rated network shows, shopping network channels QVC, HSN and qubo's 24-hour children's programming.

The FCC's Kiddoo warns consumers not to fall for outlandish ads hawking "over-the-air TV" antennas. While you won't receive "800 channels" as one ad proposes, if you live in the city of Albany you can tune in about 40.

  • Learn more about the changes HERE.
  • This site will help you determine the right antenna for your location. 

Viewers needing further assistance can visit www.fcc.gov/TVrescan or call 1-888-CALLFCC (1-888-225-5322) and press “6” to speak with a dedicated help desk representative, seven days a week, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. (EDT).  The call center is available in English and Spanish and the information on the website is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Tagalog.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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