Most area TV stations delaying digital switch

First Posted: 2/11/2009

After a lengthy campaign to inform the public about a switch to all-digital television, only two area stations will be doing so next week as planned, due to a delay approved by Congress.
The change in which broadcasters are to begin sending their signals in a digital format rather than the traditional analog system was to occur at midnight next Tuesday.
To prepare consumers, a promotional campaign was launched months ago advising those with TV sets served by antennas of the need for digital converter boxes in order to keep receiving signals. People with cable or satellite service are not affected, due to those systems already transmitting digital signals.
Earlier this month, Congress approved a delay in the switch from Feb. 17 to June 12, based on a belief that some citizens, including the elderly, were not ready for the change. But a compromise provision allowed broadcasters to transition to all-digital broadcasts early if they got permission from the Federal Communications Commission.
Only two television stations in this area notified the FCC by a Monday deadline that they intend to change over Tuesday as originally planned.
They are WXLV (Channel 45), the Triads ABC affiliate, and an independent station, WMYV (Channel 48).
Among the major area stations that will wait until June for the conversion are WXII (Channel 12), WFMY (Channel 2), WGHP (Channel 8) and WUNL (Channel 26).
The delay has left some in the television industry scratching their heads, including a spokesman for Woods TV Inc. in Mount Airy, one of the local businesses offering the digital converter boxes.
Tycho Wood Jr., a co-owner of the business, said Wednesday that he understood the delay to June was partly because a government program to supply coupons to help consumers buy the converter boxes had run out of funds. Wood said he also heard that the new date is aimed at helping facilities such as nursing homes better adjust to the change.
I thought we had plenty of time to get ready for it, added Wood, who applauded the effectiveness of the government campaign to make people aware.
Im surprised theyre not more going ahead with it, he said of those stations opting to change over next week as planned. A list released by the FCC shows that 681 of the 1,800 or so TV stations in the nation plan to discontinue their analog signals by next Tuesday. Wood pointed out that stations have spent millions of dollars preparing for the switch.
In further commenting on the delay until June, Wood said, Im surprised theyre doing it, but yet Im not surprised, too.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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