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Report: Confusion Reigns About Digital TV Conversion

30 Jan, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

With little more than a year remaining before television broadcasters switch from analog to digital transmissions, a new study found that 74% of consumers remain confused about their options. Meanwhile 61% are completely unaware of the pending transfer.

Television broadcasters will cease transmitting over-the-air in the analog format Feb. 19, 2009.

The study, compiled in a telephone survey by Consumer Reports National Research Center, found that 58% of respondents aware of the transition believe all TVs, including digital, will require a digital converter box.

Another 48% believe only digital TVs will work in 2009 and 24% believe all analog TVs will have to be discarded.

“Confusion about digital television transition will cost consumers a lot of money for equipment they may not want or need,” said Joel Kelsey, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports.

According to the poll, about 15% of Americans receive TV transmissions exclusively over-the-air. Without obtaining a digital converter box or digital TV, 23 million adults will be unable to watch TV or receive information in the case of an emergency.

Among consumers who pay monthly for analog TV broadcasts, 40% would lose TV access if they cancel their subscriptions.

About 33% of consumers who currently receive digital broadcasts plan to buy a digital converter box and 31% plan to purchase a new TV.

More than 73% of respondents were unaware the federal government has allocated discount coupons to offset the purchase price of a digital converter box.

The report chided the federal government for allocating less than $7 million in public education funding on the subject, compared to a reported $450 million earmarked for similar campaigns in the United Kingdom.

“It is now clear that the government and every media company that profits from consumers watching TV must do whatever it takes to help consumers keep getting broadcast TV without paying a dime more than necessary,” Kelsey said.

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