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DTV Transition Finally Complete

Kim Hart

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."

By Kim Hart  |  June 13, 2009; 2:12 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I get my locals from DirecTv, but I have had a rabbit ears and digital tuner for a few years just for laughs.

I've lost the ability to get channels 7 & 9 since they moved to Vhf. Apparently I'm not alone, according to the griping on those stations websites. BTW, I'm in Eastern Sterling along the river and get channels 4&5 clear as a bell.

Still some work to do.

Posted by: JkR- | June 13, 2009 3:40 PM

And who won in this digital changeover? Cable corporations, retail chains, and manufacturers of converter boxes and antennas. Big business, AGAIN. Not consumers.
Thank you, Congress and the FCC.

Posted by: Rivery | June 13, 2009 4:58 PM

The DTV transition is no trouble at all if your cables are correctly bipolarized. Go to Screen 47 of the DTV Converter Box On-Screen Installation Guide and use the resident GPS to correctly align your antenna for each channel, allowing for local ionospheric conditions, and ARRRGGGHH!

Technical reference:

Posted by: MikeLicht | June 13, 2009 6:36 PM

In the DC area, the transition was NOT a success. Many people who got prepared early for the digital conversion were surprised that they could no longer get ABC 7.1 or CBS 9.1. After watching dtv for months, of course we thought we were prepared. Then, apparently those stations suddenly changed from strong UHF to weak VHF dtv signals without providing any explanation. So many people that thought they could pick up the dtv signals from those stations are now out of luck. Your newspaper should cover the issue.

Posted by: spgass1 | June 13, 2009 11:27 PM

Yes, it is true that channel 7 & 9 changed on transition day from UHF to VHF. However, this simply means that a rescan is required. If you have your convertor box's remote, go into setup and request a re-scan. Expect this process to take two minutes. After this rescan is complete, you should get 7 & 9 even better. I live in Sterling and this is my situation. We do plan to watch the NBA finals on WJLA, ABC 7 this evening on the upstairs TVs, which are over the air only.

Posted by: pptcmember | June 14, 2009 11:30 AM

It's just government-speak to say that everything went smoothly and that reception problems could associated with "needing a new antenna, living too far away from the broadcast tower to receive a signal". In everyday English this can be translated into, "the signal was just too weak to reach the customer."

Posted by: JimZ1 | June 14, 2009 11:39 AM

A friend who lives in Shepherdstown WV received the 4 network broadcasts from DC
(ABC,CBS,NBC,FOX) although the pictures were snowy, more and less.
Now the only network she receives on DTV is NBC from Hagerstown, MD; plus PBS.
I don't think a simple antenna upgrade will help, but maybe a big antenna will.

It seems that many households in rural areas would be losing channels.
This would include many rural poor and their children.
I haven't seen reports on this by journalists.

Posted by: GDuncan1 | June 14, 2009 11:45 AM

It is amazing to me that if you take away something like TV or make it harder to get, people will scream bloody murder about it. But if you take away people's freedom, in being able to sell their houses using owner financing, or want to tax employees' health benefits, as the Obama Adminstration planning on doing) you'll not hear a peep out of them. I guess we get the government we deserve, but as long as we can continue to watch American Idle, everyone is dumb and happy.

Posted by: moonwatcher2001 | June 15, 2009 11:02 AM

Well I have a new antenna. use to get 10 channels that came in sharp. Now NOTHING Called the DTV # and still nothing. The Goverment sold us out. The all mighty Dollar

Posted by: elecmastertech | June 15, 2009 12:52 PM

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