Transition to be postponed until June 12

The delay is official: President Obama on Wednesday signed the legislation delaying the nation’s switch to all-digital broadcasting until June 12.

The switch had long been set for Feb. 17, but last month the Obama administration began pushing for a three-month delay, saying that federal programs to assist consumers with the transition had been underfunded and insufficient.

About 7 million television households are believed to be unprepared for the end of analog broadcasting by local TV stations. Homes that receive cable or satellite service, or have newer digital-ready TV sets will not be affected. Homes with older analog TV sets need to buy a digital converter box to receive local channels after June 12. The legislation gives stations the option of dropping their analog signals before June 12 but most major station owners have pledged to heed the new administration’s concerns and will wait until June 12.

“During these challenging economic times, the needs of American consumers are a top priority of my administration,” Obama said in a statement after signing the bill. “This law, which was crafted in a bipartisan way and passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate, ensures that our citizens will have more time to prepare for the conversion.  Millions of Americans, including those in our most vulnerable communities, would have been left in the dark if the conversion had gone on as planned, and this solution is an important step forward as we work to get the nation ready for digital TV. My administration will continue to work with leaders in Congress, broadcasters, consumer groups and the telecommunications industry to improve the information and assistance available to our citizens in advance of June 12.”

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