Many Rural Areas Making Digital TV Switch Early

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Congress agreed last week that conversion to digital television should be delayed. Many stations in rural areas are converting anyway.


David Migoya  of The Denver Post reports that as many as two of every five television translators — the gizmos that relay free TV signals into far-flung areas — won’t work or will be turned off when the switch to digital takes place. “I don’t really think people fully appreciate how big a problem this is going to be,” R. Kent Parsons, vice president of the National Translator Association and regarded by the government and private sector as the leading expert in the field, told Migoya.)

Rural viewers who fear being left in TV darkness should contact their local TV stations and ask when they are planning to make the switch to digital. In many cases, local station managers are the ones making the decision; they may need to hear from local residents.

A study by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights shows that low-income and elderly people, those with disabilities, immigrants and non-English speakers will be disproportionately impacted by the DTV transition, which will affect everyone who watches over-the-air TV using a set-top or rooftop antenna. Cable and satellite subscribers will not be immediately affected; additionally, those who bought “digital-ready” TVs within the last 2 years won’t need to do anything to prepare for the switch.

The FCC has a helpful list of all TV stations organized by location, with early-transitioners marked in red. 

The consumer matchmaker site Retrevo is providing a free service connecting folks holding extra coupons with those in need. 

The author is director of Reclaim the Media, a media justice organization based in Seattle, and editor of the DTV information website