Friday, April 13, 2007

Don't Get Left Behind

I've seen estimates that nearly 70 million television sets in somewhere between 20-22 million households will be affected by the analog cutoff in 2009. That figure represents around 20% of the total households using TV's...the rest are hooked to satellite or cable. Within that 70 million set figure there are, no doubt, households that have a combination of television sets that are connected to cable or satellite, and others within the same household that are not. Those kitchen or bedroom sets are relying on off-air reception. It has been estimated that more than half of the 20% that rely on off-air reception are unaware or have limited knowledge that the analog broadcasts will end in 2009.

No viewer should be left behind. That is in part why we have devoted space on our website to educate the viewer. I suspect you will also see an industry wide public service campaign in the upcoming weeks and months ahead and the Federal government has committed 5 million dollars to publicize the change... Of note, the government has been criticized in many circles for not committing enough money to publicity. Five million dollars, for example, is just a fraction of the amount the UK, a much smaller country, is spending promoting their transition to digital. Knowledge is key.

There has been lots of conjecture that many of that 20% are low-income, elderly, or minority households. A recent survey by the Association of Public Television Stations reported those viewers have only slightly lower incomes and are slightly less educated... generally, they are similar to cable & satellite viewers. No matter your income, education, or one should lose service of their television and the service local television provides in the form of news, information, emergency broadcasts and entertainment because of a lack of knowledge. Spread the word... TV IS CHANGING, DON'T GET LEFT BEHIND. It will require some changes by the consumer...either in the form of a new television set purchase, a settop box purchase, or connection to cable or satellite.

The same law that mandates the analog cutoff also provides funding for $40 coupons that can be used towards the purchase of a digital settop box that can receive off-air digital signals and downconvert them for use on an analog TV. Boxes will likely cost a bit more than $40 (estimates recently have them at approximately $60), so the coupons will assist but not fully subsidize the transition for low-income households.

After New Years 2008, all households can request up to two $40 coupons. After the first $990 million in coupons are distributed another $510 million will be distributed to households that rely solely on off-air reception. Those dollar figures account for only 34 million sets of the 70 million affected by the analog cutoff. I suspect the hope is, that of the remaining 36 million sets some will be replaced as part of a normal replacement cycle or will be connected to cable or satellite.

For more information on the Settop Box Program:
DTV Answers Website
NTIA DTV Coupon Program
NTIA Website

More info about the transition:
USA Today: FCC's Copps worried about digital TV transition

FCC Seeks Comment to Ensure All Cable Customers Receive Programming After the Digital Television Transition

More interesting info:
'Rabbit Ears' Find New Life in HDTV Age
TV Antennas Are Back; 5 Tips For Buying One

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