DTV Switch: Mostly A Smooth Move - InformationWeek
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11:21 AM

DTV Switch: Mostly A Smooth Move

The great majority of television-watching Americans weren't affected by the change to digital broadcasting because they receive their signals from cable and satellite TV providers.

The big DTV switch is essentially over and while the FCC continues its mopping up campaign, some consumers are still struggling with converter boxes and antennas to get reception.

The great majority of television-watching Americans weren't affected by the June 12 change, because they receive their broadcasts from cable and satellite providers. Viewers who get over-the-air reception, however, were affected if their old analog sets weren't upgraded by converter boxes to obtain the new digital transmissions.

"In a broader sense, the transition is not over, even for those of us who dutifully connected our converter boxes by (the) deadline," said acting FCC chairman Michael Copps. "The DTV transition is not a one-day affair. (Some consumers) will have to move or adjust their antennas or perhaps even buy more powerful ones in order to receive the channels they should be receiving."

Indeed, antennas could be a blessing or a curse for consumers as they seek to bring the new digital stations up on their sets. Because the digital broadcasts are transmitted differently from the old analog broadcasts, antennas may need to be tweaked or replaced.

In a survey of 1,000 television watchers released last week, the Harris Corporation reported that the majority of respondents said they plan to switch to free over-the-air HDTV. If that happens, it could be bad news for cable and satellite providers, who enjoyed a bump in their sales by consumers signing up for service in advance of the DTV switch.

Some 800,000 callers phoned FCC help lines -- 1-888-CALL-FCC -- in recent days, seeking help. Before the actual switch when TV stations changed their broadcasting from analog to digital, most calls were for help with equipment, but after the switch was completed, most calls were from consumers trying to get video on their TV sets. FCC officials said converter boxes need to be rescanned, sometimes twice.

"Some stations are still ramping up to full power and making other necessary adjustments in the days ahead," said Copps.

The FCC has scheduled a review of the switchover for its July 2 meeting. The agency has been functioning without a permanent chairman for months ever since former chairman Kevin Martin left to take a position at an Aspen think tank. President Obama has nominated Julius Genachowski for the chairman's post; the Senate Commerce Committee is expected to hold hearings on the FCC nominations in the coming weeks.

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