Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Senate delays DTV switch, House expected to do same

Yesterday the Senate passed a bill to delay the date that TV stations will cease broadcasting analog signals until June. The House is expected to pass similar legislation quickly.

The delay is designed to enable more citizens to receive the discount coupons for converter boxes for TV's that use antennas rather than cable or satellite dish for reception.

A mere delay, however, will not solve the problem that some rural West Virginians are experiencing. Those who live along the outer edges of a channel's reception area can at least see and hear a snowy analog image for that channel, but may get no reception at all for the digital version of that channel. So when the analog signals cease those rural residents will no longer be able to see or hear some (or perhaps all) of the few channels they get now.

This access to local TV news, weather, and alerts is especially important to isolated older people. For many of these folks local TV is how they find out about boil water alerts, freeze warnings, flood watches, and community emergencies. This is especially true now that so many of our local radio stations have switched to nationally syndicated content instead of local DJ's.

For digital signals to effectively reach the same audience as the old analog signals they apparently have to be stronger to reach that minimum threshold in the most rural areas.

Hopefully a delay in the switchover will also provide time to identify and address these important issues for vulnerable rural older West Virginians.

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