Will House Delay Switch To Digital TV?

Proponents of moving the date to June say that there is a substantial number of people who are ill-prepared for the cutover to digital. The transition to a digital-only television broadcast system means that those receiving analog transmissions via TV sets equipped with antennae will not receive programming if they don't have a special converter box. Coupons for set-top boxes, which can be redeemed at stores such as Best Buy, are available from the government.

Activists have claimed that the coupons are difficult to obtain due to long waiting periods. They also have a 90-day expiration period.

"A delay is important but it is not sufficient," said Mark Lloyd, vice president of strategic initiatives at the Leadership Conference of Civil Rights (LCCR), one of the groups pushing for the time extension. "Funding is necessary to extend the coupon program and support local groups to help all Americans get the assistance they need to keep access to free over-the-air television service."

The LCCR noted that the switch to digital could especially impact "communities of color, people who speak a language other than English, people with disabilities, low-income families and the elderly"—groups that may not have understood or been aware of the implications of the February deadline.

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"This is a huge transition that benefits business and government. We need to make sure that consumers get treated fairly, too," said Joel Kelsey, Consumers Union policy analyst, in a statement. "A four-month delay should provide enough time to address the problems with the transition. A delay is a win for consumers, especially the millions of people sitting on waiting lists for converter-box coupons."

People who pay for cable or satellite TV service will not be affected by the transition. Although the switch to digital-only broadcasts has been planned for almost 10 years, 6.5 million households, mostly lower-income, that get television signals through antennae have purchased neither newer digital TVs nor converters for their old sets, according to research by the Nielsen Company.