Digital Conversion Looms

With the switch from analog to digital TV only three weeks away, the FCC is going into high gear with its efforts to educate people about what they need to do to be ready for it. Jim Bell reports.

Most people know by now that all full power TV stations in the country will go digital on June 12th. Millions of analog TV sets will stop working that day, if they're not equipped with a digital converter box. The Federal Communications Commission estimates about 80 percent of the nation's households are ready for this, which means 20 percent are not, and FCC Digital Coordinator Bill Lake says many are minorities in large cities, like Houston.

"Cities with high minority concentrations, in particular some of the Hispanic communities, have been slower to get ready, in part because of language barriers. And it also varies from city to city in terms of the degree of reliance on over-the-air television. And Houston  is unusual in that regard, in that over 20 percent of Houston viewers rely on over-the-air television, which is probably twice the national average."

Lake says a lot of elderly and low income viewers are also not ready for digital TV for financial reasons.  In any event, he says the FCC will continue working up to and after June 12th to help as many people as possible make this change. 

"One thing we want people to know is that while our message is 'act now so that you won't have an interruption of service in June', we will also be there after June 12, to help the people who weren't ready in time."

The FCC will keep providing digital converter box coupons through July. The TV stations tested their digital signals two times earlier today, and they'll do a third test later this evening, so viewers can see if their converter boxes are working. For more information, view the digital TV website.  

Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.