Middle America Digs-In Over Digital TV Switchover

08 July 2008

WASHINGTON, DC: "You would expect this stuff in Cuba, the places where there is a dictatorship, complained Bertha Graham to the New York Times. "You shouldn't have to buy converter boxes or do whatever they say to do. You should be able to use what you've got."

"This stuff", of which Ms Graham, a sixty-nine year old Washington resident, complains so bitterly is the US government's planned switch to all-digital TV next February.

She owns four of the estimated 70 million TV sets that rely on analog signals to operate – a situation with which she is perfectly content and from which she has no intention of switching.

Ms Graham is not alone. Far from it. She epitomizes millions of [mainly] older Americans who oppose having to pay $60-$70 for a digital converter box

At a Congressional hearing last month Mark Lloyd of nonprofit advocacy group, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, told lawmakers: "Making the transition to digital is not simply a matter of being able to watch wrestling or 'American Idol' or reruns of 'Friends'."

At stake, he said, "is the ability of the nation's most vulnerable populations to maintain uninterrupted access to their key source of news and information and emergency warnings: free, over-the-air television."

And yesterday (Monday) the LCCR released a report criticizing the government's publicity efforts to date. "The cost of a Senate campaign in Ohio in 2006 was nearly $9 million," claims the group's news release, "but for the nationwide campaign to educate consumers about the DTV transition, Congress has so far allocated only $5 million."

The LCCR is now demanding that the government cancels all expiration dates on discount coupons for converter boxes, making redemption open-ended.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff