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All systems go for Wilmington, N.C., digital TV test

September 7, 2008 | 10:16 am
Cleaning up after Tropical Storm Hanna

They're hearty folks along North Carolina's hurricane alley. So although Tropical Storm Hanna hit the Wilmington area with heavy rain and wind Saturday, knocking down some trees and causing scattered power outages, flooding and beach erosion, locals declared the damage minor. (It wasn't even a hurricane, after all.)

With cleanup quickly underway (as shown above in Wilmington on Saturday), the Federal Communications Commission announced this morning that Monday's test of the digital TV transition would take place there as scheduled.

The storm, which made landfall just south of Wilmington early Saturday, had threatened to postpone the test, in which the region's five commercial TV stations are slated to be the first in the country to permanently switch to all-digital signals. Broadcasters in the rest of the nation are making the switch in February, and the FCC sought a test market to identify potential problems.

Along with broadcasters, the FCC has engaged in an aggressive public-awareness campaign in Wilmington to get the approximately 8% of households that depend on over-the-air TV prepared for the switch. Nobody involved with that effort wanted to have to launch a new campaign to advertise a later date caused by a delay.

Based on forecasts for Hanna, which moved quickly up the East Coast, FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin was optimistic Friday they would not have to delay the test. But the final decision wasn't made until FCC officials conducted a conference call this morning with Wilmington broadcasters.

The switch takes place at noon EDT Monday. You can watch a webcast here of the event, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. EDT, with speeches by Martin, other government officials and broadcasters.

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: Ricky Midgett of Wilmington Public Service works to remove an oak tree that was downed by Tropical Storm Hanna, crushing a car. Credit: Logan Mock-Bunting / Getty Images