The switch from analog to digital signal is scheduled on February 17th. However, President-Elect Obama has called for a delay which would postpone the switch until June. The reasoning behind this recommendation is that too many Americans are still relying on the analog signal. The Nielsen Co. estimates that 7.8 million TV homes are totally unprepared for the switch.
Additionally, the federal program that subsidized the converter box has hit its funding limit. Therefore, there are no more $40 coupons left. This leaves the burden of the full cost of the converter box on the viewer. Many argue that this is unfair, given the state of the economy.
While this delay may help viewers, it could be costly to television stations. Many stations have been educating their viewers of the switch for months now, running countless Public Service Announcements. This switch is no longer news. If there are viewers that procrastinate now, they will most likely procrastinate even at the later date.
If the switch is delayed, stations will have to maintain both an analog and digital signal for an extra four months. This will eat into the budgets of stations that were banking on being able to air only a digital signal in February, adding expenses to a TV station’s budget in the recession also does not seem fair.
Regardless of when this switch occurs, one group will lose. Whether it is the viewer without the coupon that has to spend the $50-$80 for a converter box, or the TV station that has already spent money on education and airing both signals. Both are not ideal situations in this economy.
As of today, Senate Republicans have blocked the digital TV delay. However, Democrats plan to bring the measure back for a vote.