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CKWS out of Kingston, Ontario switching to digital

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KINGSTON, Ontario — Don Cherry’s famous suits are about to take on a new dimension for north country TV viewers.

CKWS TV out of Kingston plans to switch from an analog to a digital signal in April. The station’s chief engineer will “flip the switch” early on April 25.

In the Watertown area, CKWS is on channel 11 over the air and on Time Warner Cable.

The CKWS transmitter is on Wolfe Island. It will switch from analog 11 to digital channel 11.1 on April 25. Viewers who now watch the station using an antennawill need a digital receiver (found on all televisions sold in the U.S. since 2007) or a digital converter box to continue watching after April 25. The quality experienced by viewers will be noticeably clearer and sharper.

“We’ll be covering the same area with our digital signal as with our analog signal,” said CKWS news and television operations manager Jay D. Westman.

But, Mr. Westman explained, even though the digital “footprint” signal will cover the same area as the analog signal, “It’s really not something that can be predicted 100 percent before the actual switch takes place.”

As for the station’s digital cable feed in the north country, a Time Warner spokeswoman said a plan is being worked out.

“We’re starting to work with the station on our options for carrying their signal once they convert to digital next month,” spokeswoman Stephanie Salanger wrote in an email. “We have been through a similar exercise with other stations before, so it’s not unusual.”

Ms. Salanger said Time Warner plans to continue carrying CKWS.

“But right now, we are just working through how we get their signal once it switches from analog to digital from an engineering perspective,” she wrote.

Mr. Westman said CKWS’s switch to digital is not mandated by the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission. In 2009, the Federal Communications Commission mandated that all television broadcasts in the U.S. be digital.

Mr. Westman said a similar law to the American law went into effect in Canada in 2011, but it affected only large markets.

“We decided to go ahead and make the switch on our own,” he said.

Most of the programming on CKWS comes from CBC, but the independent station is not a CBC affiliate.

One of the most popular programs it carries is Saturday night’s “Hockey Night in Canada,” where Mr. Cherry, 79, a Kingston native, is an analyst on “Coach’s Corner” and is known for his contentious comments and dazzling, often flowery, suits.

CKWS will still be broadcasting over the air with a traditional analog signal on channel 36, transmitted from north of Smith Falls, and channel 26 in Spencerville. These signals, however, cover a much more localized area than the Wolfe Island transmitter.

Northern New York residents also receive the Canadian station CJOH through Time Warner and over the air. A CJOH spokesman said the station serves only the Ottawa area in high definition. It does have a rebroadcast transmitter serving the Kingston area but there are no plans to switch to digital.

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