Even after months of warnings and preparations, the FCC is worried that millions of Americans will still be taken by surprise if they find their TV sets go blank. President Obama has even gotten into the act, alerting Americans there won't be a delay beyond Friday.
"I want to be clear: There will not be another delay," the president said in a statement, referring to earlier delays in the DTV switch; more than a third of American televisions were switched in February. "We have worked hand in hand with state and local officials, broadcasters, and community groups to educate and assist millions of Americans with the transition."
The Nielsen Co. recently estimated that of the 114 million U.S. households with TV sets, more than 10% aren't completely prepared for the switch. Households that rely exclusively on the old analog reception are most vulnerable because they could lose all TV reception if they aren't prepared. Others, with extra sets not attached to cable, DSL, or satellite connections, also could lose reception even if their main TV sets are properly connected.
"Analog televisions will need to have digital-to-analog converter boxes attached to their televisions in order to continue receiving over-the-air television programming," the FCC said Monday. "Get the help you need: call 1-888-CALL-FCC or visit and enter your ZIP code or state in the upper right-hand corner of the page to find local events, assistance, and information."
The FCC has also designated 180 of its employees as well as thousands of volunteers to help consumers make the switch.
In its advisory this week, the FCC focused on potential antenna problems. It said rabbit-ear indoor TV antennas might have to be replaced with rooftop antennas in some regions in order for consumers to get channels 2 through 51.
"Some viewers may have to install rooftop antennas," the FCC said. "But try good ears and a bow tie first. You may be pleasantly surprised by how good they'll make your TV picture look."
In rare cases, some consumers may have to purchase service from cable, DSL, or satellite providers to get reception. The DTV switch has already been a boon for TV set manufacturers this year as sales are up sharply, traceable largely to consumers who want to make sure their televions operate properly. Service providers, too, have benefited from the switch.
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