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Report From Congress

June 12 Deadline Set For Switch To Digital Television

By Roger Wicker

Are you ready for the switch to digital television?  Chances are you have seen plenty of ads about the upcoming transition – some that included me urging you to prepare for digital television, also known as DTV.  The transition to DTV is just one month away and Mississippians who are affected need to take action.

Some television stations have already transitioned to DTV, but on June 12, 2009, all full-power stations in the U.S. will begin broadcasting only in the digital format.  Some have said this change represents the biggest revolution in television since color was introduced, but not every home is ready for the transition.  People who do not subscribe to cable or other pay service, and instead watch free television using rooftop or rabbit-ear antennas on older analog sets, will need to take steps to ensure their television reception is not disrupted.

Why The Switch?

Our government has been working on shifting away from analog broadcasting for decades.  One of the main reasons is that analog television consumes a lot of radio airwaves that are needed for public safety communication, including police, fire departments, and rescue squads.  The lack of airwave space for emergency communications became quite apparent following the attacks on September 11, 2001, as well as Hurricane Katrina.  In the aftermath of these tragedies, first responders and law enforcement officials had difficulties communicating with each other, due in part to a lack of usable airways that carried their transmissions.

To alleviate this problem, Congress passed legislation in 2006 requiring all local broadcast television stations to stop broadcasting in analog and setting 2009 as the deadline for the transition.  In addition to aiding emergency communication capabilities, this switch will provide clearer pictures, better sound quality, and more programming choices for television consumers.

Affected Viewers

Over 127,000 Mississippi households will be affected by the switch to DTV.  According to the National Association of Broadcasters, approximately 20 percent of those homes are not prepared for the transition.  In order to ensure you are ready, the first step is to determine if you have analog television.  

Generally, televisions connected to cable, satellite, or other pay services will continue to work after the transition.  Additionally, televisions purchased within the past two years likely contain built-in digital tuners that will allow the television to continue to work.  However, if you currently own an older television and receive over-the-air programming using a broadcast antenna, either through “rabbit ears” or an antenna on your roof, your television is analog and you should act soon.

Making The Switch

If you determine that you have an analog television, there are simple solutions.  The easiest and most cost effective method is to purchase a DTV converter box, using a government coupon, which will convert the digital signal into analog.  The converter box will allow you to continue using your analog television.  The government is offering two $40 coupons per household to be used toward the purchase of converter boxes.  You can apply for the coupons online at, or by phone at 1-888-388-2009.

Of course, persons who do not wish to obtain a converter box may find this a good opportunity to subscribe to cable, satellite, or other pay service, or to purchase a new television.  The federal government mandated that televisions manufactured after March 1, 2007, contain a digital turner.

For more information and for answers to questions you may have regarding the transition, you can visit or call 1-888-225-5322.  

June 12 is just around the corner, so I encourage you to take any action necessary to ensure your television service is not disrupted.

A digital TV training program, provided by WTVA in Tupelo, will be held on Thursday, May 14, at 10:00 a.m. in the Multipurpose Building in Coffeeville.

For information, call (662) 675-2730.

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