Local News

U.S. Senate approves delaying digital TV transition

Posted January 26, 2009

— The U.S. Senate approved a four-month delay in digital TV conversion Monday, and the House is preparing comparable legislation to move the switch to June 12.

TV stations across the country were scheduled to stop sending analog signals on Feb. 17, the date federal law mandates that they broadcast solely in digital format.

The Obama administration has sought the delay because the government program to provide coupons for part of the cost of converter boxes is broke. People without cable or satellite TV need converters to continue receiving over-the-air TV signals after the conversion. The latest estimate is that more than 6.5 million households are not prepared for the switch-over despite months and months of efforts to have them get ready.

Earlier Monday, Paula Kerger, president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting System, said the delay would cost public broadcasters $22 million.

The stations will face increased power charges to maintain over-the-air broadcast signals, she said. Many have leases for transmitters that were due to expire on the date of the switch-over and will have to make new arrangements, she said.

"This is such a tough situation for our stations, because they have just gone through a process where they have raised the money to go through this transition," she said.

The National Association of Broadcasters has not taken a position on extending the deadline. The TV stations do not want to suddenly alienate and lose viewers, but they also have sunk money into preparing for the Feb. 17 transition.

Kerger said that PBS is not supporting either side, but she doesn't want PBS' hardships lost among potential hardships faced by viewers.

"At the end of the day, our interest is public service, and we want to make sure that people don't go without television," she said.

There is a possibility that TV networks would be allowed to choose whether to make the switch over on Feb. 17 or delay it, in which case Kerger said it's likely that PBS would allow its individual stations to choose for themselves.

In lobbying for government help to the system, Kerger noted that much of the costs for the digital transition have been paid through fundraising, which in some cases has made less money available for programming.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • lauraleigh Jan 27, 2009

    A U.S. agency is broke, while we have tax dollars to fund overseas abortions. Brilliant.

  • Just the facts mam Jan 26, 2009

    I do not pay for cable television as I do not think it is worth the money, and I would rather have the money in my pocket. Why pay hundreds of dollars a year when that money could be put towards my retirement or toward something more important? So I use free TV - have used converter box with poor results (poor reception) for a year now - spent around $50 for 2 boxes - just spent $60 for a antenna and reception still not as good as analog. I am upset that I am spending money due to the government making these changes when analog has worked fine for decades. I feel sorry for many people with limited incomes and elderly who will no longer be able to watch TV!

  • luke Jan 26, 2009

    "At the end of the day, our interest is public service, and we want to make sure that people don't go without television," she said.

    Television IS NOT a public service, It is a luxury, and most of what is available is absolute JUNK.There are some good programs,but ther are more bad ones!!


    Only in America where the needs of the FEW or the one out weigh the needs of the many. Who cares if they can't watch TV it's NOT a right and like others have said we should NOT be paying for it!!!

  • Mags Jan 26, 2009

    I can now see the change. "What can my country do for me"

  • Angry Independent Jan 26, 2009


  • colliedave Jan 26, 2009

    "At the end of the day, our interest is public service, and we want to make sure that people don't go without television," she said.

    can't have that, people's IQs may rise should TV disappear and they would be required think

  • bs101fly Jan 26, 2009

    oh goodie, I was worried I'd have to return my rabbit ears!
    Thanks for saving me once again US Government!

  • colliedave Jan 26, 2009

    People have been repeatedly told of the transition to digit for how long a period of time? And the government has provided coupons to offset the cost and people still haven't taken action to be prepared for the transition? I guess they want the government not only to buy it for them but come to their house and install it for them! Welcome to Obama's nanny state.

  • dcatz Jan 26, 2009

    People have had over 3 years to get ready for the digital transition. Those that haven't already made the switch aren't going to do so unless they get a kick in the rear. As for the coupons, as a taxpayer, I shouldn't have to pay for other people's television. Television is a luxury, not a right and even the poorest of people should have been able to save up a meager $50 in a three year period to buy the required converter box.

    Obama and the dems are following the typical democratic tactic of panem et circenses (Google it if you don't know what it is) in order to placate the masses and get more votes while looking like they care about the little guy.

    By delaying the transition, Mugabe has only created more confusion and cost the local stations more money as they have to once again rearrange their schedule and keep operating old analog transmitters (which eat a lot of power).