Obama warns of digital TV switch

President tells country to act before its too late

President Obama has issued a warning to TV Luddites who are in danger of losing access to broadcast TV after the digital switch is thrown on June 12: Act now before it’s too late.

Among the Obama administration’s first acts, even before his inauguration, was delaying the long-planned digital TV transition, which had been set for Feb. 17. The administration pushed for the four-month postponement in order to give the feds and industry more time to reach out to an estimated 7 million households that were totally unprepared and would have otherwise seen their TV sets go dark after the switch (Daily Variety, Jan. 9).

Despite that reprieve, Obama said in a statement issued Thursday: “Still, some people are not ready. I want to be clear: There will not be another delay. I urge everyone who is not yet prepared to act today, so you don’t lose important news and emergency information on June 12. And I encourage all Americans who are prepared to talk to their friends, family and neighbors to make sure they get ready before it’s too late.”

Viewers vulnerable to losing TV service are those who do not have cable or satellite service and have older TV sets that are not digital-ready. As part of the education push in the past few months, consumers have been alerted to the availability of converter boxes that will allow older TV sets to receive digital signals. The feds spearheaded a coupon campaign to help consumers offset the $75-$100 cost of those boxes.

The vast majority of the nation’s 1,770 full-power broadcast TV stations have been broadcasting digitally for some time. June 12 is the cutoff date for stations to cease their analog broadcasts in order to free up that spectrum to be used for speedy communications by police, firefighters and other emergency responders.

Obama noted in his statement that the number of homes vulnerable to losing service had been cut in half in the four months since the delay.

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