The CW in the Twin Cities and Lakeland Public Television in the Bemidji-Brainerd area were among several Minnesota TV stations that ended their analog broadcasts Tuesday, nearly four months in advance of the government-mandated switch to all-digital television.
Viewers who use older TV sets with over-the-air antennas can no longer watch those channels without a converter box.
That represents nearly 6 percent of households in the Twin Cities viewing area, which covers 59 Minnesota counties and nine Wisconsin counties, according to a recent estimate by the Nielsen Co. Those viewers will lose all TV programming if they don't take action by June 12, the deadline for other stations to make the switch.
Homes with cable and satellite service as well as those with newer TVs with digital tuners are not affected.
Lakeland Public Television (KAWE/KAWB, Channel 22 in some parts of the Twin Cities) received just a few negative calls after its analog shutdown, general manager Bill Sanford said.
More than 400 stations nationwide stopped their analog broadcasts Tuesday, the original date for the switch, despite Congress' recent move to push the deadline back to June 12.
For Lakeland, continuing analog broadcasts through June would have cost the small operator $25,000, Sanford said.
"Our budget's not looking good as it is," he said. "I probably would have had to lay off someone in the news department to make up for that."
The analog transmitter that Lakeland shut down in the Brainerd area also was more than 20 years old and required frequent maintenance, he said.
The CW Twin Cities (WUCW, Channel 23) referred a reporter to its Maryland-based parent, Sinclair Broadcasting, which did not return a call for comment.
Randy A. Salas • 612-673-4542
OTHER EARLY SWITCHERS
These other Minnesota stations went all-digital Tuesday, according to the Associated Press: WDIO-TV (ABC), WIRT (ABC) and KBJR-TV (NBC) in Duluth-Superior; KWCM (PBS) in Appleton; KTTC (NBC) and KXLT-TV (Fox) in the Rochester-Mason City-Austin area; and KSMN (PBS) in Worthington (Sioux Falls, S.D., market). These stations made the switch before Tuesday, according to the AP: Fox affiliates KQDS in Duluth, KVRR in Fargo-Moorhead and KBRR in Thief River Falls, and NBC affiliate KRII in Chisholm.
Viewers who want more information about the transition or the status of the government voucher program for converter boxes can call 1-888-388-2009 or go to www.dtv2009.gov.