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Senate grants Obama's wish to delay the digital transition, House votes on bill soon

TV viewers have been inundated with service announcements and coverage of the digital transition from analog to all digital TV broadcasts that is set to happen next month. Viewers who were using older TVs and don't get a converter or subscribe to pay-TV will lose the ability to watch free broadcast stations after the transition.

One of the first things that president Obama asked was to delay the digital transition to give Americans who weren't prepared more time to get ready. The government has been running a coupon program that gives people who need a converter box coupon to help pay for the cost of getting the needed converter.

The Senate drafted a bill last week that outlined a method for delaying the digital transition from February 17 to June 12 of 2009 to give viewers an extra four months to get a converter or subscribe to pat TV services.

MSNBC reports that the Senate has unanimously approved the bill to delay the transition to the June 12 date that the Obama administration wants. The delay is seen as a victory for the Obama administration and for Democrats in Congress who have been lobbying for a delay in the transition date.

The Nielsen Company performed a survey that found 6.5 million homes in America were unprepared for the digital transition and would lose the ability to watch TV after the transition. Funds in government coffers to help offset the cost of the converters for Americans dried up this month despite a long backlist of requests for the coupons.

Additional funds for the program are only being added as coupons that were requested and then not used expire after the 90-day usage window originally granted. The bill that was approved by the Senate will let those who asked for coupons and then didn’t use them apply for a new coupon. MSNBC reports that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is administering the coupon program, had 2.6 million coupon requests on its waiting list as of last week.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller said, "Delaying the upcoming DTV switch is the right thing to do. I firmly believe that our nation is not yet ready to make this transition at this time."

VP of the digital TV transition for the National Association of Broadcasters Jonathan Collegio says that the numbers cited by Nielsen may overstate the number of people not ready for the digital transition. Collegio says that the numbers exclude consumers who have purchased a converter box, but not installed it as well as those who have requested a coupon and not received it.

Gene Kimmelman from the Consumers Union says, "The government has failed to deliver the converter boxes these [elderly and low-income] people deserve just to keep watching free, over-the-air broadcast signals."

Republicans in both the House and Senate are concerned that a delay in the transition will do nothing but confuse consumers and cost broadcasters money. Paula Kerger from the Public Broadcasting Service claims that delaying the digital transition from February to June 12 could cost public broadcasters $22 million.

Part of the wording in the Senate approved bill will let broadcasters who have already purchased the needed equipment for digital broadcasts to transition to all digital in February, even if the House votes to approve the delay in the transition. The House is expected to vote on the bill next week.

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RE: Damn shame
By kattanna on 1/27/2009 9:57:19 AM , Rating: 5
it would be interesting to know, of those supposed 6.5 million people polled, did they think they needed a new HD tv or simply a digital convertor box. because i still know many people who are claiming this conversion is to ALL HD, not merely an analog to digital thing.

RE: Damn shame
By omnicronx on 1/27/2009 11:14:06 AM , Rating: 5
What would be more interesting is to know of those 6.5 million, how many have HDTV's with internal DTV tuners and still think they need a box. You can't buy a TV today without one , and I think it has been mandated since 2006.

RE: Damn shame
By StevoLincolnite on 1/27/2009 11:46:53 AM , Rating: 2
Well he Price of Digital Set-top boxes are pretty cheap these days (In Australia anyway), I can pick up a cheap one here for the price of a cheap DVD player, it might only be an SD box, but that's all that most people require for there CRT Television sets anyway.

I'm ready for the switch over, I Threw away all my CRT Televisions during Christmas so I now have a 52" LCD in the Lounge room, and a 32" LCD in the bedroom for just the Xbox and DVD/Blue-ray, and a 26" LCD in the Shed so I can watch stuff while I'm mucking around.

To be honest I actually never saw a HDTV broadcast in my life till I got the 52" LCD, I was amazed at the clarity and colour, and went off and replaced all my other Television sets, Even Xbox 360 games saw a massive improvement!

RE: Damn shame
By Jimbo1234 on 1/27/2009 2:05:37 PM , Rating: 1
" might only be an SD box, but that's all that most people require for there [sic] CRT Television sets anyway."


My oldest TV is a 32" Toshiba CRT that is HD without a tuner. It's called an HDTV monitor. I was well aware of that fact, and since I have DirecTV HD, it's a non issue.

RE: Damn shame
By omnicronx on 1/27/2009 2:12:56 PM , Rating: 4
quote: might only be an SD box, but that's all that most people require for there [sic] CRT Television sets anyway.
Thats exactly what he said.. the 50$ converter boxes in question will only convert digital broadcasts to analogue, presumably via rca or coax cable. You happen to be part of the small minority (i.e you are not in the most category) that can use a DTV/DTV HD converter box with your CRT set.

RE: Damn shame
By bkiserx7 on 1/27/2009 11:34:55 PM , Rating: 2
How bout all the stations switch and broadcast 1 analog channel that only displays a number to call for you FREE CONVERTER BOX; like: 1-800-BROKE-TV or 1-800-PROCRASTINATE

RE: Damn shame
By tastyratz on 1/27/2009 11:54:55 AM , Rating: 5
Those numbers HAVE to be artificially inflated. I am sure these people were not properly educated first, and its staggering the number of people WITH cable... WATCHING the commercials from the cable company saying they don't need one... who STILL think they have to get a box or a new tv.

"Hello, we need to know if you ever watch or might ever want to watch tv using rabbit ears"

"why is that"

"Because the government knows the economy isn't doing well right now, and we would like to give you 2 $50 coupons to get something for nothing"

"something free? Yea I need one"

"dear god we need more money, it seems people have an interest in free coupons"


and so is the reason why ebay has hundreds of converter box auctions at any point... most of which not listings by a legitimate business or authorized reseller.

RE: Damn shame
By daar on 1/27/2009 1:14:32 PM , Rating: 5
Perhaps if it wasn't delayed, we'd soon see a headline along the lines of:

Breaking news: American illiteracy rates drop to record low numbers!

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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