Darryl Bush/AP
Comcast Cable technician Julio Rodriguez, left, explains how a new digital converter cable
works after installation.

Many TV Stations Switch to Digital Despite Delay

February 12, 2009 11:29 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Hundreds of TV stations nationwide are planning to end analog broadcasts by the original Feb. 17 deadline, although Congress has now given them until June.

Some Stations to Go Ahead With Changeover

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 491 out of 1,796 full-power TV stations in the nation will be adhering to the original deadline of Feb. 17.

Congress voted last week to allow stations to wait until June 12 to make the changeover due to concern that viewers are not ready for the switch. A federal fund to supply viewers with coupons for converter boxes is running low on cash.

The Detroit Free Press reports that four TV stations in Michigan are among those that are adhering to the original date. Cities where all major TV networks plan to make the swtich include San Diego, Calif.; Tulsa, Okla.; Charleston, S.C.; Dayton, Ohio; and Lincoln, Neb., among others.

In January, House Republicans had stymied a bill to delay the switchover from analog to digital TV until June, which the Senate had previously passed.

House Democrats had introduced the bill to the floor as a noncontroversial bill, meaning it needed a two-thirds majority to pass. But with Republican opposition the 258-168 vote didn’t meet the required threshold.

House Republican leaders explained their position, saying that a delay “will create confusion among millions of consumers who have been told for the last two years that February 17th is the date for the change.”

The Senate had previously agreed unanimously in a voice vote to delay the switch from analog TV to digital from Feb. 17 to June 12, giving 6 million Americans who aren’t ready four more months to make the switch.

President Barack Obama had previously supported the delay, after the government ran out of funds for a program intended to provide people with coupons to buy converter boxes for their TVs.

Background: Americans not ready for digital TV

Experts estimate that the number of Americans not yet ready for the switch is approximately 6 million, but during the debate some lawmakers argued that about 20 million poor, elderly and rural-dwelling individuals were not ready for the transition.

Last year, the government was running out of money to subsidize the switch from analog to digital broadcast signals, prompting fears that millions could go without signal in February.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., asked Congress for an update on the coupon program that was helping people with their conversions. The Department of Commerce said the program was expected to hit its $1.34 billion limit at the beginning of January, Reuters reported.

USA Today reported that the digital converter coupons can take six weeks to arrive once ordered. Up to 70 million homes have televisions that use antennaes, which won’t work without a converter box. Nationwide, there are nearly 300 million televisions in use.

The necessary converter costs between $40 and $90, and the government-issued coupons offset $40 of the cost.

Are you prepared for the federally mandated shutdown of analog broadcasting?

Digital television is supposed to offer viewers clearer pictures, better sound quality and more programming options than analog. 

Related Topic: Prisons concerned about digital TV switchover

Reference: How to recycle your old TV


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