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Viewers Lost in Confusion As TV Stations Switch Networks

December 13, 1994

DETROIT (AP) _ When Sharon Gittleman turned on her TV to watch ″60 Minutes″ on Sunday, all she got was interference.

″It was impossible to see the screen,″ she said. ″It was covered by a murky haze. I was very annoyed by that.″

Gittleman, of suburban Oak Park, was among thousands of frustrated viewers in the Detroit area who were either unable to find CBS programs on the network’s new station or got bad reception when they finally found it.

TV stations around the country are switching their network affiliations in a game of musical chairs started by Fox Broadcasting. And some viewers are having trouble figuring out exactly where to find their favorite shows.

In May, Fox cut a $500 million deal to sign up a dozen CBS, NBC and ABC affiliates. That left the networks scrambling to find new TV stations in major markets such as Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Phoenix and St. Louis.

CBS began broadcasting its programs Sunday on Channel 62, or WGPR, after losing its 40-year affiliate on Channel 2, or WJBK, to Fox.

By noon Monday, about 10,000 people had called WJBK, even though the station ran many ads to try to reduce the confusion, spokeswoman Kathleen Kozlowski said. She said calls dropped off sharply Tuesday.

″The dust is settling, and people now have found what they’re looking for in terms of their favorite programming,″ she said.

Mary Jo Midura of Ypsilanti had a hunch the switch would mean trouble, especially among her friends who don’t consult a TV Guide or newspaper before watching their favorite programs. So she started calling them Sunday.

″They were utterly confused,″ she said. ″They even called me back and said, ’When did you say so-and-so was?‴

Complicating the switch was a technical glitch at a major suburban cable company, which had carried WGPR on its interference-laden Channel 3 position.

As a result, 50,700 Continental Cablevision customers in Detroit’s northwestern suburbs found poor or no reception of CBS until Continental moved WGPR to Channel 14 on Monday. The cable company was swamped with angry calls.

In Atlanta, hundreds of people called station switchboards Sunday when Fox programming moved to WAGA and CBS moved to WGNX. In Milwaukee, 2,000 people called WITI, which switched from CBS to Fox on Sunday.

Sonya Avakian, an actor from Novi, didn’t get what the fuss was all about.

″I mean, there are people dying all around the world and yet there are people in Detroit who are up in arms because some how their channels have changed,″ Avakian said. ″I think it’s God’s way of saying, ’Sit down and read a book.‴

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