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UPDATE: Digital TV Switch Likely Delayed to June 12

22 Jan, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey

digital tv

The U.S. Senate reportedly reached a compromise that would postpone to June 12 the previous Feb. 17 switch from over-the-air analog broadcasts to digital.

A vote is expected as early as Jan. 26.

The delay comes as the Nielsen Company lowered its estimates on the number of homes unprepared for the digital television transition from 8.8 million to 6.5 million, a marked improvement, but a daunting number of potentially no-TV homes as the digital deadline loomed.

“Nielsen has been preparing for the transition to digital television for more than two years,” said Nielsen vice chairwoman Susan Whiting. “We’ve been sharing our data with clients, government leaders and the public so they could track progress to digital readiness.”

Legislation introduced in Congress, if passed, would approve more funding for a $40 coupon program for digital converter boxes, and extend expiration dates for coupons already in the hands of consumers. President Barack Obama supports a delay, while House Republicans have come out against the idea.

Nielsen’s 6.5 million figure represents 5.7% of all United States homes, however the Nielsen data shows a disproportionate number of African-American (9.9%) and Hispanic (9.7%) homes are unprepared for the transition. The biggest metro area with the most unprepared homes is Los Angeles (7.6%), Nielsen reported.

“It is imperative that we operate at an accelerated pace to educate those who are at the greatest risk of losing their television service: low-income households, large numbers of senior, minority and disabled viewers,” said Cynthia Perkins-Roberts, Nielsen African American Advisory Council. “These viewers rely on traditional television the most and can least afford to lose their television lifelines. We have a responsibility to make sure that these groups … are equipped and ready for this transition.”

Consumer groups and some technology companies have offered support for a nationwide delay, while the Consumer Electronics Association and the Federal Communications Commission have been vocal against one.

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