Going Digital

Monday - 3/16/2009, 8:12am EDT

WFED's Jane Norris

As heard on sister-station WTOP

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By Jane Norris
FederalNewsRadio

The switch to digital television may have been delayed for most people until June 12th, but the government wants you to know some things before your analog signals go dark.

Q: We hear some stations are switching early?

A: The Federal Communications Commission is giving a reluctant go-ahead to a new round of early DTV switchovers, telling stations they can terminate their analog signals starting April 16, but imposing more conditions. There must be at least one local network station in the market that continues to operate on the old signal until June 12th. Stations switching early have to air prime time messages for 30 days before the switch and provide walk-in help centers, open seven days a week and staffed with station personnel.

Q: How is it going for the stations that already made the switch on February 17th?

A: There have been some problems reported so the Federal Communications Commission has issued new instructions to stations if they want to switch to over-the-air digital signals before the June 12th date. They will have to let viewers know that they may lose service altogether. Stations will also have to notify viewers that they may need a new antenna to avoid a loss of service. Finally, they will have to alert consumers that they may have to periodically reset and rescan their TV station list to make sure they are receiving all of the digital services available to them.

Q: How has the reaction been so far in the places where the transition has occurred?

A: Smaller cities have made the switch and there have been large call volumes to ask questions about reception, but for the most part it has not been a total disruption. As we approach June 12th, when the bigger cities will all make the transition, there are concerns that more people will be affected. That's why the FCC is ramping up the requirements for any early switch over. If you haven't gotten a converter box and tested it yet, it would be wise to do so, as the coupons are available and the converters are in the stores now. And if you have cable or satellite television you don't need to do a thing.

You can find more information about the conversion on the FCC's Consumer Facts web site: "DTV" IS COMING (AND SOONER THAN YOU THINK!)

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