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Posted September 12, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Residents lose network signals

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

Area residents who are experiencing problems receiving network TV signals since the transition to digital-only broadcasting have an advocate in Washington, and, for some, a solution is on the way.

The digital transition in June left many local viewers who receive broadcast signals via a rooftop antenna or "rabbit ears" without an ABC, CBS or NBC affiliate.

A map at the Federal Communications Commission's DTV transition Web site, www.dtv.org, indicates that the Washington network stations' digital broadcast signals aren't strong enough to reach the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

However, Winchester-area viewers should be able to receive WHAG-TV, NBC's affiliate in Hagerstown, Md., along with ABC affiliate WHSV-TV from Harrisonburg, according to the Web site. The CBS signal has been lost.

After a series of complaints, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-10th, intervened this week on behalf of his constituents, drafting a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

WHSV General Manager Tracey Jones said the digital broadcast signal is not an exact replica of analog, and is more sensitive to terrain.

Jones said WHSV is aware of the loss of its signal in parts of the northern valley and has applied for the rights to a WVTP translator station that went dark after the digital conversion in June.

"This will help in fill in the gaps" in ABC's coverage in Shenandoah, Frederick, Warren and Clarke counties, she said.

The station has been the granted the license and has ordered the necessary equipment, Jones said.

"We're probably six to eight weeks out," she said. "After that people should be able to experience coverage as they did before."

Hugh Breslin, general manager of WHAG in Hagerstown, was surprised to learn Friday that the station's signal wasn't reaching the Winchester area.

Many of the problems reported by viewers of the NBC affiliate since the DTV transition have been due to either improper antennae -- digital requires a VHF signal -- or the converter box, he said.

"It's almost a home-by-home issue," Breslin said, though he acknowledged that terrain can affect the signal.

Breslin encouraged viewers experiencing signal loss to contact the station.

Messages left with the Washington network affiliates were not immediately returned Friday.

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