Saturday, June 06, 2009

Millions still unprepared for transition to digital TV

Millions of rural households appear likely to lose television reception next Friday, the deadline for stations to stop broadcasting analog signals and go exclusively digital.

A Nielsen Co. survey "indicates that as of the end of May, more than 10 percent of the 114 million households that have television sets are either completely or partly unprepared, reports The New York Times. "Michael J. Copps, the acting head of the Federal Communications Commission, said that the people most likely to lose reception are society’s most vulnerable — lower-income families, the elderly, the handicapped and homes where little or no English is spoken. The transition will also hit inner-city and rural areas hardest, he said."

Reporter Stephen Labaton continues: "More than three million homes that do not subscribe to cable or satellite services are totally unprepared for the transition and will lose their reception, according to Nielsen. Another nine million homes that subscribe to cable or satellite services but that have spare television sets — typically in bedrooms and kitchens — that are not connected to any service are also expected to lose reception. And officials say that millions more who thought they were prepared are likely to experience technical problems like poor reception or improperly connected antennas."

In fringe areas, reception could be lost because of the difference in digital and analog signals and/or a station's location of a digital transmitter in a location different than its analog transmitter. For a report on that, click here. "Officials advised consumers to rescan the channels of their television sets after the conversion was completed on Friday to make sure they were pulling in all the correct signals," Labaton reports. For more information, go to or call the FCC's transition hotline: 1-888-225-5322. That's 1-888-CALLFCC.


Anonymous said...

We purchased the converter box and installed it correctly several months ago. However, because of our rural residence, and the breeze even on the most still of August days, the several outside antennae we have been able to afford and have installed over the years can not withstand even the gusts we experience.
Consequently, when we get any digital transmissions (rarely) we have to adjust the indoor antenna every few minutes because of video or audio breakup or the signal is lost completely. When a transmission is received, we only get it on one channel at a time. So we re-scan and get a different channel. This is especially troublesome for our Public Broadcasting stations, which receive funding from the Kentucky Legislature from our taxes. When KET (the PBS broadcaster) was formed and state funded, a major purpose was (and to my knowledge, still is)to serve all of Kentucky, especially those in rural areas. So much for that. I plan to contact legislators and remind them of that, and I suggest others do the same. We are regular viewers of PBS programming, but have been able to receive a signal only one evening since the digital conversion ... BTW, the broadcaster went back to analog broadcastingfor the fundraising weeks ... guess they need rural viewers for both tax and charitable dollars.
As a rural resident, there is not access for us to broadband at all, cable at all or digital transmissions on a regular basis. So much for the "public interest, convenience and necessity" as well as empty promises of universal access. The latter seems to count universally only for who "conform" to a certain form urban living, and have the financial means to take on another monthly bill for cable or satellite during these tough economic times.
When a former FCC employee makes a public speech deriding those of us in rural areas as abusers of the environment who always want something for free (rural electrification, e.g., which we pay monthly for and all benefit, BTW, it raises the hackles. (Does he think food is grown in Safeway or what?) ... and when we are rhetorically framed by leaders as people who "cling to their guns, religion and antipathy for others," I wonder what does matter to those administrators (legislators as well as FCC personnel). It seems, it means conform to what most of us think is the way to live our lives or we'll cut you off. Why has there not been more outcry from rural areas ... other than to say we are "unprepared."

Anonymous said...

We live in a rural area 50 miles outside of Seattle. We did everything they told us to do - bought converter boxes and a new digital TV, and spent $200 on a state of the art digital HD antenna. But it doesn't work for us. We lost all four Seattle stations, which means we no longer have ABC, NBC or CBS broadcasts.
I called the FCC and got incorrect info from their helpline. They told me that it is just a matter of time before the technical details are worked out and network broadcasting is restored. But the signal strength is determined by the local broadcasters, not the networks. And our local broadcasters have all been airing warnings that their stations would not be available in several outlying counties which formerly received analog service. According to them, this is not a problem that time will resolve.
I just wish that the FCC had told us the truth BEFORE we invested $280 in equipment that doesn't work. They've known about the "expected change in coverage" for a long time.
If you do call the FCC, be sure to ask for a complaint form if you want your comments/problems to be heard. The gal I spoke with said they don't record caller's comments, and they don't send the form unless you ask for it.
It looks to me like the FCC is basically ignoring the impact the transition has had on millions of elderly and low income residents of outlying areas. But it is a huge impact, caused by the preemptive actions of the federal government in discontinuing analog signals that were working fine for millions of rural folks. Speak up if the digital transition has affected your area!