DTV Transition Finally Complete
Yesterday's transition to digital television went fairly smoothly with only a few minor glitches, federal officials said, although there is an unknown number of viewers who may still need help tuning into the new broadcast signals.
Throughout the day Friday, 971 full-power stations dropped their analog broadcasts, forcing consumers to install a converter box or upgrade to a digital TV set. Cable and satellite customers were largely unaffected by the switch. Federal Communications Commission staffers have been working around the clock to man the main DTV hotline: 1-888-CALL-FCC. The call centers received 317,450 calls yesterday, and has received nearly 700,000 calls since Monday. The call volume has tapered off today.
"Its looking more like Y2K than the Bay of Pigs," said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on a conference call with reporters. But he added that efforts to identify and help consumers who had lost TV reception were still underway.
Nearly 30 percent of the calls to the FCC hotline concerned the operation of the digital converter boxes, most of which were resolved when consumers were instructed to "rescan" for channels. More than 20 percent of the calls dealt with reception issues, as a result of needing a new antenna, living too far away from the broadcast tower to receive a signal, or the station's digital coverage area changing slightly than its analog coverage area.
About 3 million households were considered to be unprepared for the transition, but the commissioners said it is impossible to know how many actually lost TV service.
Viewers in Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore were the most prevalent callers seeking help from the FCC. In Chicago, one station had trouble getting its digital signal to downtown residents living in high-rises. In Dallas, one broadcaster had trouble getting its digital signal to be picked up and rebroadcast by a satellite service provider. In other markets, a handful of stations had technical difficulties and were off the air for a short amount of time. In Memphis, a tornado prevented stations from making the switch. The FCC said it issued 23 extensions to stations around the country, mostly in smaller markets.
Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps said it is too early to declare the transition a success. "A transition of this size inevitably causes disruption," he said. "Now job number one is to help restore service to consumers who are having problems."
June 13, 2009; 2:12 PM ET
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