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The Unseen Heroes: Rich Warren and the Forgotten Gems of Broadcast Programming

by Tech Desk
2 minutes read
The Unseen Heroes: Rich Warren and the Forgotten Gems of Broadcast Programming

According to insiders, the evolution of television channels has come a long way. Longtime residents of east central Illinois can still remember a time when they were lucky enough to receive only two out of the three major television networks. However, with advancements in technology and the rise of cable and streaming services, the number of available channels has increased exponentially.

In today’s world, we have gone from having dozens of cable channels to hundreds of streaming options. Not only that, but there are also numerous free streaming channels available for viewers. With such a vast array of choices, it’s no wonder that people are curious about specific channels and their programming.

One reader recently posed a question about broadcast television channel 18.4 in central Illinois. This particular channel is known for airing old game shows like “What’s My Line?”, “To Tell the Truth,” and “Blockbusters.” However, it is frequently off the air or displays technical information on its screen.

To understand why this happens, we need to delve into the concept of subsidiary broadcast channels or subchannels. Nearly 15 years ago, as an incentive for broadcasters to convert to digital broadcasting, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provided main broadcast channels along with up to four additional subsidiary channels.

The main channel (.1) would offer full bandwidth high definition (HDTV), while subsequent channels would provide reduced bandwidth HD or standard definition programming. These subchannels allowed broadcasters to offer additional content without significant extra costs in terms of equipment and power.

However, there are limitations associated with subchannels. Multiple subchannels can reduce the quality of the main HD signal since there is limited bandwidth available for each TV channel. Additionally, subchannels can potentially reduce the reach of a station’s signal.

Many stations filled their .2 channel with local programming or content from affiliates in different markets. The major broadcast networks did not typically provide additional programming on these subchannels except for PBS which creatively uses its .2 subchannel for 24/7 original children’s programming.

To fill the gap left by major networks, program agglomerators emerged. These companies focused on purchasing older television programming from the past and offering it to stations looking to fill their subchannels. This allowed broadcasters to generate new sources of income through advertising on these subchannels.

However, due to the lower viewership of subchannels compared to main channels, most advertising on these channels is low-budget and often similar to late-night commercials seen on main channels. Some well-known examples of subchannel networks include Ion, Grit, Bounce, Laff, Court TV, and Mystery.

When it comes to channel 18.4 specifically, it appears that maintaining a stable broadcast is not a top priority for broadcasters. While FCC regulations require stations to keep their main channels on the air, there are no such requirements for subchannels. As a result, some subchannels may experience downtime or technical issues.

It is important to note that all digital televisions can receive and display subchannels without requiring additional equipment or adapters. However, depending on your TV and how pre-HD programming is formatted by the broadcaster, older programs may appear in either vertical letterbox format or stretched to fit modern screens.

Taking everything into account, the world of television has evolved significantly over the years. The rise of cable and streaming services has led to an abundance of choices when it comes to channels and programming. While some channels may experience occasional downtime or technical difficulties like channel 18.4 in central Illinois, they still play a role in providing diverse content options for viewers.

So next time you come across an intriguing but lesser-known channel like 18.4 with its old game shows and occasional technical glitches, remember that it’s part of the ever-expanding landscape of broadcasting options available today.

According to insiders


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