Tuesday, January 27, 2009

DTV conversion on hold

Late into the night, your United States Senate was working hard to change our lives. The Senate passed a bill to put on hold the national conversion to Digital Television (DTV), which was suppose to go into effect 22 days from now, on February 17. The House should act within the next few days.

For those who do not know, your current television programs are sent through analog signals. When the conversion happens, the analog signals will be shut off and the digital signals, which are already running, will be the only way to get your favorite television programming. If you have a cable or satellite subscription, you are already converted.

The concern about DTV conversion comes from the fact that possibly 15 percent of the population may not be able to get converted in time, primarily due to the current financial conditions of the country. PBS, the home of Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer, estimates that 17 percent of their viewership would be in the dark on February 17. Even though most states have made the financial obligations to help the public television stations convert, little has been done for the consumers.

The Federal Government has been issuing $40 coupons to consumers to help in the conversion process, but like most government programs, it is cumbersome and moving slow. The Obama administration had suggested pushing back the conversion date and the Senate recommended in its legislation to move the date to June 12, 2009.

The group that seems to be the most affected will be the Hispanic/Latino community. Univision and Telemundo has been pushing hard on their stations to get their viewers to convert but, for some reason, it has not been as successful as hoped. Another group that will be affected are the first responders who have been using analog emergency channels for years. Their conversion rate has not been as fast and it could present a problem in places where natural disasters are common occurrences. Even though the campaign nationally has been going on for two years, it seems as though change is not so easy after all.

So folks, don't panic just yet. You may get some relief temporarily, however I suggest that you stop procrastinating and make the conversion now. Change is coming.