11 February 2009

Television End of Day Sign Offs

Remember back to the old days when our TV selections were limited to the big three networks – NBC, ABC and CBS – the local PBS affiliate and the independent TV station? Here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, before there was Bright House Networks and Bay News 9 (even before there was cable TV in the first place) our selections were limited to 3, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 44 with an outdoor antenna.

Back in the pre-cable days all of the broadcast stations in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area did not operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contrast this with the world of television we live in today, 500+ channels of programming on your digital cable box with the time - normally when the station would sign off for the day – filled with nothing but boring infomercials, program length commercials heavily touting stuff that I personally would not spend my hard earned money on.

The typical sign off routine would be an announcement that the TV station is ending its broadcast activities for the day, followed by the locations of the main studios and transmitter location. Before the advent of VCRs and DVRs some stations – including WTVT FOX 13 here in Tampa – would run a disclaimer that programs are for home viewing only and that no commercial use is permitted. After that, viewers are given a postal address in which to send comments or suggestions regarding station operations and/or programming. Finally, the national anthem is played and then about a minute of color bars plus tone and then the transmitter carrier is turned off.

It should also be noted here that some television stations, just before signing off for the day, run a one minute daily devotional either produced locally or nationally. WTSP, known as 10 Connects here in St. Petersburg, used to run a daily devotional at the start of and at the end of the broadcast day back in its days as an ABC affiliate.

Now that we sometimes miss the old days of when TV stations sign off for the day, you are wondering how TV stations in other parts of the world sign off at the end of their broadcast day. Even though we have TV stations that are now 24/7/365, only a handful do sign off, either nightly as part of the broadcast day or for about a half hour once a week in order to perform transmitter adjustments.

I recently came across a blog that is dedicated to television sign offs from not only here in the United States but around the world as well. It is called The Television Close Down and Start Up Blog, and it hosts a growing collection of sign off and sign on routines from television stations not only here in the United States but from all over the world.

Here is a sampler of what you will find over at The Television Close Down and Start Up Blog:

XETV Channel 6, San Diego: There are two videos, one from its days as a FOX affiliate and another from its present day as a CW affiliate. While the station serves the San Diego area, the transmitter is located across the international border in Tijuana, hence the Mexican call letters. What makes their sign on and sign off so unique is that the Mexican National Anthem (El Himno Nacional Mexicano) is played first, followed by the American National Anthem (The Star-Spangled Banner); as the station is based in Tijuana the playing of the Mexican National Anthem is mandatory per Mexican law. After both national anthems are played then the sign on information is read, first in English and then in Spanish; the sign on information is identical to other American television stations except that the licensing authority is that of the Mexican Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes) rather than the Federal Communications Commission that regulates American radio and television stations.

JOEX, Channel 10, Tokyo, Japan: This is the flagship station of a Japanese TV news network, All-Nippon News Network. What makes this sign off unique is that Japan’s Emergency Alert System – similar to the Emergency Alert System we are accustomed to here in the United States – is tested right after the sign off announcement is complete. By comparison, Japan’s Emergency Alert System consists of a tone (known as “the pips”) played three times followed by an announcement explaining the test, while America’s Emergency Alert System consists of three long data tones, followed by the two-tone test signal of the old Emergency Broadcast System (only used for a required monthly test or if an actual emergency message is to follow), and three short data tones signaling the end of the test. After all, the Japanese know how to test their emergency system without alarming the general public by doing it only at night and at the end of a broadcast day; here in America I don’t know why broadcast stations have to break into the afternoon soap operas or why ER reruns on TNT have to be interrupted for these tests.

I can’t list them all here, but you will have a great time watching these television sign off videos from around the world over at The Television Close Down and Start Up Blog. To get there, simply click on this link or you can click on the link to the Television Close Down and Start Up Blog from my Links of Interest page over at EdwardRingwald.com. By the way, the blog owner of The Television Close Down and Start Up Blog updates on Wednesdays and Saturdays with new sign off and sign on videos.

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