On September 8, 2008, television stations in the Wilmington, N.C., media market stopped broadcasting their programs using analog signals. The pilot project for the residents of southeastern North Carolina took place five months before a scheduled nationwide transition to digital television.
Called the biggest change in broadcasting since the introduction of color television, Elon University student researchers traveled to Wilmington to see firsthand, with exclusive access to real-time information, what would happen in the hours after "the big switch."
Communications professor Connie Book led the team as they surveyed residents who contacted local television stations and the Time Warner Cable call center with problems receiving signals. A leading expert on digital television, Book later testified before Congress about their findings, and what stations nationwide should expect when digital television takes hold in February 2009. Her testimony can be accessed in PDF format here. To watch video of her testimony, follow this link and look for the "Webcast" header at the upper right corner of the page.
The data compiled by Elon student researchers was cited by several national media outlets. Students blogged from Wilmington as they compiled statistics, sharing with readers the ways they were able to assist callers.
For more information on the digital television findings, or to schedule an interview with Connie Book, please contact Eric Townsend with the Elon University News Bureau at (336) 278-7413 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students enrolled in the university's Broadcasting and the Public Interest course during the fall 2008 semester signed a letter to NBC president Jeff Zucker on Dec. 4, 2008, urging him to "Interrupt the Super Bowl" in February 2009. The students believe that an interruption will help alert viewers who are not yet prepared, or even aware, of the pending switch to digital broadcasting two weeks later.
As part of that letter, students included a proposed 30-second spot for FCC chairman Kevin Martin to read as a public service announcement.
News release: "Elon students call on NBC to interrupt the Super Bowl"
Data collected by Elon University student researchers can be accessed here. Information is contained in a PDF file that requires an Adobe Acrobat reader to open. A total of 172 calls were fielded by Elon students on Sept. 8, 2008, from 12-10 p.m.
More than 90 percent of North Carolina residents say they are at least somewhat aware of the federally mandated switch to digital television scheduled for February 2009, according to data compiled in early fall 2008 by the Elon University Poll. Seven percent of North Carolina residents indicated they were not at all aware of the switch.
The poll, conducted Sept. 29 - Oct. 2 by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 477 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general, with numbers that include both landlines and cellular phones.
While 90 percent of North Carolinians surveyed report that they receive their television signals by cable or satellite, another 10 percent rely solely on television signals delivered over the air. For these residents to receive television after the digital switch, they will need to have purchased a new digital television set or installed a TV signal converter box. Cable and satellite customers will have the digital signals converted by their service providers for them.
When asked where they had heard about the switch, 61 percent of North Carolina residents reported having heard about it on their local television newscast. Twenty-five percent said they heard about it on local cable television news. Another 12 percent said they learned about the DTV transition on the Internet. Ninety-one percent (91 percent) said the information provided was helpful or very helpful.
January 15, 2009: "Students help viewers following state DTV tests"
January 12, 2009: "Elon students prepare for their role in statewide DTV test"
September 16, 2008: "Book, Limerick testify before Congressional committee on DTV transition"
September 9, 2008: "Elon team documents historical television transition"
The Washington Post:“N.C. switches to digital TV"
NPR (Morning Edition):“Wilmington becomes model for digital TV switch”
Associated Press: “Old antennas cause complaints in digital TV test”
Bloomberg News: “North Carolina digital TV switch provokes phone calls”
TV NEWSDAY: “Professor to document Wilmington switch”
Rocky Mountain News:“Denver ‘at risk’ in TV switch”
Multichannel News:"Why Not Interrupt the Super Bowl"
TV Technology:"Wilmington Lesson: Test the Boxes!"
Associate Dean, Elon University School of Communications
B.A., Louisiana State University; M.Ed., Northwestern State University; Ph.D., University of Georgia.
A former producer and reporter in Baton Rouge, La., Book pursued her doctoral studies at the University of Georgia with a focus on cable television policy. She joined the Elon faculty in 1999 and has published often on digital television, municipal cable policy and regulation.
Book is a four-time recipient of grants from the National Association of Broadcasters to study consumers and television and the winner of BEA research awards six of the past eight years.
Book authored "Digital Television: DTV and the Consumer," published by Blackwell Press, and was a recipient of a 2007 Pew Internet grant to study international Internet governance policy.