Analog television users were going to be left in the dark starting Feb. 17.
But last Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to delay the switch from analog to all-digital broadcast television to June 12. President Barack Obama has yet to sign, but has indicated that he will approve of the delay.
Over six million viewers are still unprepared for the transition, said California Broadcasters Association Vice President Joe Berry. According to last year’s numbers, 1.2 million Californians face the transition from rabbit-ear antennas to all-digital television.
However, these numbers do not account for some of those people who have already bought the equipment necessary for the digital transition and have not hooked it up yet or the people who have a second or third analog television, Berry said.
To ease the transition process, the government has issued every household a coupon with a value of $40 for a digital converter box. Most converters range from $40 to $80.
The problem with the coupons? There’s a long waiting list.
“Congress was pushing for the delay to let the coupon program catch up to the demand,” Berry said. “Apply and get in line now, so you can get your coupons.“
Christopher Chow, a public information officer for the California Public Utilities Commission, said that they are trying to eliminate any confusion surrounding the television transition.
“A lot of folks who still have old [analog] TV sets with rabbit ears won’t have reception,” Chow said. “If you already have a digital TV, you’re fine.“
CPUC has taken various steps to get Californians prepared. They have a consumer advisory, which was published in Spanish and Chinese daily newspapers. They have also provided information to community organizers and have updated their frequently asked questions sheet, especially about the coupon program, Chow said.
“There has been a lot of media attention on the coupon program because the president asked for the delay,” he said. “The new law [about digital television and the coupon program] is contingent on money being authorized.“
Jack Stevens, manager of Pearson’s Appliance & TV Manager in Woodland, said that he has seen more people buying televisions in the past six months in preparation for the transition. Some people also come in to ask about the transition, he said.
“I got [my converter box] two months ago,” Stevens said. “It was an easy process, not really difficult. [The transition] should be okay if the average consumer can read instructions.“
Despite the easy process, Stevens is concerned that the real problem is money, especially with so many people unemployed.
Another factor influencing the transition is geographic location, such as people who live away from metropolitan centers.
“We are not going to leave anyone in the dark,” Berry said.
Despite the June delay, broadcasters have enough flexibility to start the switch as soon as March. Viewers who have already bought and set up new equipment will be in digital before the official June 12 date, Berry added.
To find out if your television needs to be converted, take the quiz at dtv.gov.
SASHA LEKACH can be reached at email@example.com.