Digital TV transition closer to four-month delay after Senate vote


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Hold onto your rabbit ears: People unprepared for the nation’s digital TV transition may get a four-month reprieve.

The Senate today voted unanimously to delay the transition to all-digital broadcasts, originally scheduled for Feb. 17, until June 12. If the measure passes the House, homes that get TV the old-fashioned way -- over the air -- will have extra time to get ready.


A delay would give the Obama administration the extra time it has been requesting to whip the converter-box program into shape. The program gave $40 coupons for the special converter boxes needed to make digital signals work with their analog TV sets, but it ran out of money early this month, and the waiting list has been growing. Reuters says:

Many lawmakers worry that an estimated 20 million mostly poor, elderly and rural households are not ready for the switch, which requires owners of older television sets receiving over-the-air signals to buy a converter box or subscribe to cable or satellite TV.

The intention of the digital-TV transition is to deliver clearer over-the-air pictures and free up valuable spectrum for public safety officials’ communication systems. Critics of a delay say the nation has received ample warning about the transition and that the nation should flip the switch already, as Hawaii and Wilmington, N.C., have.

It’s hard not to laugh about this all when you watch the spoof public service announcement, above, from the ‘Talkshow With Spike Feresten.’ But it’s also hard not to think about the trouble that grannies all over the country may face as they try to make sense of this whole mess.

-- Chris Gaither