Monday, September 22, 2008

What We Can Learn From Wilmington, NC

At the stroke on noon, Monday, September 8th, the residents on Wilmington, NC, became the first in the nation to see what it is like without TV. Well, not exactly, they were the first city in the nation to officially turn off the over-the-air analog TV broadcasting transmitters. This was part of a test conducted by the FCC to ascertain what might happen when the rest of the nation wakes up on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 to find that their analog over-the-air TV is no more.

The major TV stations in Wilmington ceased broadcasting analog signals after an extensive educational campaign. The campaign, which lasted months, urged over-the-air viewers to get ready for the switch by purchasing DTV converters, replacing old sets with new digital TVs or subscribing to a cable or satellite service. The campaign used TV and radio spots, newspaper articles, in–person presentations at churches, PTAs and other civic gatherings and even paid advertising in newspapers and magazines.

So what happened? The good news is that for most people it was a non event. Of course for those with cable or satellite services (the vast majority of TV viewers) there was no difference. For most of the over-the-air viewers, since they had heeded the warnings and prepared, it was also a non event. Nevertheless some 1500 called the hot line in the hours following the shut off. Many were confused. Others were angry that their inalienable right to watch “Wheel of Fortune” was compromised.

It is this last group that the federal government and the TV broadcasters are concerned about. This group is made up of procrastinators, those who may have trouble understanding what they need to do and a few who think that if they ignore a problem it will go away.

The phone bank reported that the two major issues among those who had purchased a DTV converter was that they waited till the last minute to connect it and for those who did connect it, the antenna that they were using was not appropriate for their location. So, they got none or only a few of the digital channels.

I know I sound like a broken record (for those who don’t know a “broken record “ refers to an old recording device using a plastic platter, that once damaged, would repeat the same section of the song over and over again) but NOW IS THE TIME TO MAKE YOUR SWITCH TO DIGITAL. If you are going to use DVT converters, get your coupons ( ) and purchase them now. Connect them now. You will not miss any of the programs you now enjoy since they are all being simulcast on the digital channels now. In fact you will have access to several new channels with a digital converter or new digital TV set..

By changing NOW to digital you will have the chance to identify any problems. For example, you may need a different antenna or need to move your existing antenna. Around these parts it is much easier to do that up on the roof in September or October than it is in January of February. Also trying to get professional help or DTV converters on February 18th will be a hassle at best.

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