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Are You Ready for Digital TV June 12?

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Marc H. Morial
On Friday, June 12th, the old fashioned way of watching TV, with rabbit ears and roof-top antennas, will become obsolete.

On that date the federal government has mandated the complete transition from analog to digital TV, ushering in the biggest change in how television is broadcast into consumers’ homes since the advent of color TV half a century ago.

Digital broadcasting provides a clearer picture, more channels and will free up airwaves for use by emergency responders. If you have already purchased and installed a digital TV converter box or if you have cable, satellite or other pay-TV service, you do not have to do a thing.

However, if you are not ready, the only thing you will see when you turn on your TV on June 13th is a blank screen.

While consumers have known of this change for several years, according to Nielsen, the world’s leading marketing and media information company, currently approximately 3.1             million households would lose TV service if analog transmission ceased today. According to an article in Television Broadcast Magazine,

“Among demographics, African Americans represent the highest ratio of unprepared households at 5.4 percent. Hispanics are next at 4.7 percent. Among Asian households, 3.2 percent are unprepared.”

Losing TV service may be a minor inconvenience for most of us, but for many people, especially seniors, residents of nursing homes, low income families and people with disabilities, television is much more than a luxury.

It is a lifeline to the outside world, a primary source of news and information and the place they turn to first in times of public emergency.  That is why it is especially important that these people are not left behind when the transition from analog to digital TV takes effect on June 12th.

If you are one of the unprepared, there is still time to take action.

Your options include:

Keep your existing analog TV and purchase a TV converter box with or without a government coupon. A converter box plugs into your TV and will keep it working after your local stations stop analog broadcasts no later than June 12, 2009, or Connect to cable, satellite or other pay service, or Purchase a television with a digital tuner.

If you decide to purchase a TV converter box, which costs between $40 and $80, the government is providing up to two $40 coupons per household. Converter boxes can be purchased with or without the coupon at retail stores where you would usually buy consumer electronics products including Best Buy, K-Mart, Radio Shack, Sears, Target and Wal Mart.

If you wish to purchase your converter box with a government coupon, you must first apply for your coupon(s) by going online to http://www.dtv2009.gov/, calling 1-888-DTV-2009, or by mailing your application to P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR, 97208-2000.

It takes approximately nine days to process and mail your coupons and the deadline for accepting coupon applications is July 31, 2009 or while supplies last. June 12th is only days away. If you have not made the switch to digital TV, do it today.

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