Digital TV Conversion On Hold?updated 10:45 a.m. ET, Sat., Jan. 10, 2009
February 17th. For months, we've told you it's the day analog television broadcasts will cease forever. Digital will replace it. But yesterday Barack Obama's team proposed an extension of that deadline. The government issued coupons apparently don't have funding.
For months, even for years, stations like ours have been working towards this deadline---in fact, our station alone has spent two million dollars getting ready and now it could all be up in the air. "At the end of the day, the taxpayers will have to pay and I just don't think I should have to pay for someone else's converter box," said consumer Ed McNeal. Your feelings on digital conversion probably depend on your bunny ears. Or lack of them. "I wouldn't mind helping someone that doesn't have it," said antennae-user Debra Vanya. On Monday, the government announced it didn't have enough money to meet the demand for digital converter box coupons---and millions could be in the dark February 17th. In the US14.3 million households rely on over the air analogy broadcasts only. In Arkansas the number is an estimated 144 thousand. So far, 47.4 million 40 dollar converter box coupons have been requested and 18.8 million have been redeemed. " I think they've done a decent Job of getting the word out, but I think there's a lot of people who are confused and their TV's will stop working," said Rob Wooten, manager of RadioShack on Rodney Parham. But Thursday The Arkansas Broadcasters Association voted to oppose any deadline extensions saying TV stations have upheld their end. "February 17th is the culmination of years of work and coordinating by TV stations, equipment managers and a network of cable and satellite," said head of the ABA, Jim McCall. McCall says there won't be many disenfranchised by a February switch. "Some people by nature are procrastinators and if you delay it until June or Labor Day, there are still people who won't be ready," he said. He and others including Arkansas Congressman John Boozeman, support extra funding for the coupons. But they want the day to stay put. "There's been a lot coordination and if its delayed its going to be a lot of time, a lot of money and its going to be hard to put Humpty-Dumpty together again, McCall said. The Department of Commerce will meet next week to discuss postponing the deadline. Senator Mark Pryor, on that committee, is waiting to hear arguments. So for now its a waiting game for TV stations including our own, for just when we'll flip the switch. Read more atarkansasmatters.com