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Digital TV Transition Relatively Smooth, Working Out Kinks

18 Jun, 2009 Response This Week

WASHINGTON – The nationwide switch of all television signal transmissions from analog to digital was completed last Friday and, thus far, seems to be welcomed by consumers. One survey by Harris Corporation noted that 69 percent of people felt the transition would be good for them and their families, despite some earlier reports of consumer confusion on getting converter box coupons and equipment requirements.

Nine hundred and seventy-one full-power television stations in 195 markets completed the final wave of the transition on June 12. The national call center reported 317,450 calls on that date out of an estimated 15 million households impacted by the switch, according to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

Just two days later, on Sunday, call volume had decreased to 62,949. About 28 percent of the calls were seeking help setting up digital converter boxes, 26 percent reported difficulty in receiving a specific station, and 23 percent needed help resolving broader reception issues.

Consumers in some markets had issues when digital converter boxes that had been programmed, or scanned, with channel locations before the June 12 date did not properly update despite being rescanned. The FCC countered this with an advisory that included tips to solving the problem. Also, some markets – including Chicago, Philadelphia and New York – had signal loss on certain stations, but field staff were sent out to combat issues immediately. Supplies of converter boxes in all markets appeared to be adequate.

The entire effort cost broadcasters $1.2 billion in order to increase awareness, which jumped from 38 percent in January 2007 to more than 98 percent in June.

“America is the first large country in the world to complete the transition to all-digital broadcasting, and our early reports show that the transition has been a success,” says Jonathan Collegio, NAB vice president for digital television. “Television broadcasters, from local stations to major networks, took the lead in educating and prompting viewers to take advantage of the numerous benefits of free digital television.”

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