The transition from analog to digital television broadcasts in the U.S. can best be described as “exceptional“. On February 17, 2009, all TV stations in the country will stop broadcasting analog signals, and will only broadcast digital. Except some that are not full-power stations. And except for most of the stations in Wilmington, NC, which made the switch in September. And maybe except for some stations in markets along the U.S.-Mexico border (though nothing has been decided yet about that, as far as I know). And maybe except for some stations that continue use the analog channels to broadcast messages about the transition instead of the normal programing.
And now there’s one more exception. Hawaii will make the transition on January 15, 2009, just a bit more than a month ahead of the rest of the country. Now, we’re used to the 50th state choosing its own path on some issues — they don’t do Daylight Savings Time, for example — but since they’re located more than 2,000 miles from the mainland, it’s not a problem.
So why is the Aloha State making the change early? Is it to be another experiment like Wilmington? That would be a good idea, since it’s so isloated from any other TV broadcast market. But that’s not it. The answer is the Hawaiian Petrel. This bird nests on the slopes of the Haleakala volcano on Maui, and the nesting season starts in February. The analog broadcast towers that are in the nesting area are slated for demolition as part of the transition, to be replaced by other towers further down the mountain. Rather than risk disturbing the nesting birds, the transition date has been moved up so the work will be done before the birds settle on their nests.
We’re down to three months to go until the transition. I’m betting we have not heard the last “except” on this yet.