If you’ve been following the news this week you know that there’s been a lot of discussion about postponing the end of analog television and the coming switch to the digital age. It turns out that despite a lot of advance warning to get digital converter boxes before the big switcheroo on Feb. 17, which you’ve been warned about with those annoying banner ads, and despite a coupon program to help people pay for them, a fair number of TV watchers, particularly poor folks and the elderly, are still operating with the old 20th century analog technology.
So, on Wednesday the House of Reps voted to extend the deadline until June 12. The Senate passed similar legislation last week; President Obama said he’ll sign it, and through a spokesperson promised to “continue to work with Congress to improve the information and assistance available to American consumers in advance of June 12, especially those in the most vulnerable communities.”
If you think old school TV people are breathing a sigh of relief and thinking maybe they’ll have more time to finally figure out that new-fangled box, well, that’s not exactly the case, not locally anyway. If you live in Humboldt County sans cable, and were watching the few stations still available with a TV antennae (and no digital TV or converter box) you know that the Eureka Television Group’s CBS 6 and Fox 29 made the switch on Nov. 28 last year, which is to say they switched off their analog signal and — no more Simpsons (now on 28, not 29).
Today we learned that despite the reprieve from Washington D.C. the local PBS affiliate KEET-TV will follow the original February date to shut down its analog signal, basically because it costs too much money to run both digital and analog feeds and it’s up to them to decide when to switch. As noted in a Friday press release:
After 40 years of broadcasting on analog Channel 13, KEET-TV, public television for the North Coast, will cease transmission of its over-the-air analog signal after 11:59 p.m. on February 17, 2009. The analog shut-off will only affect viewers that receive their programming with an indoor or outdoor antenna. Cable subscribers will have no interruption of service.
Ron Schoenherr, KEET-TV’s Executive Director said, “There is some understandable confusion over the current legislation moving through Congress dealing with the possibility to continue analog broadcasting until June 12, 2009. KEET-TV’s staff and board of directors made the decision to stick with the originally mandated shut-off date and stop broadcasting our analog signal on February 17. The main consideration was a financial one. To date, KEET-TV has spent almost $2 million to comply with the federally mandated digital conversion, and we are still seeking funds for its completion. The average monthly PG&E bill for operating KEET’s 23-year-old analog transmitter is between $3,000 to $4,000. We simply do not have the funds to continue analog broadcast for another four months.”
In compliance with the federal mandate KEET began broadcasting a digital signal in 2003. In 2007, KEET began broadcasting a high-power digital signal on digital channel 13-1, and added their second channel KEET WORLD, which airs PBS news, public affairs and documentary programming on 13-2. In January of this year, KEET applied to the FCC for permission to terminate analog broadcasting on the originally mandated date of February 17, and has been running public service announcements giving viewers advance notice of the analog cut-off date.
Viewers that receive an over-the-air signal will need to install a converter box that connects to an antenna and television set. In many cases, “rabbit ear” antennas may not work well with digital broadcasting. New digital set-top antennas may also need to be purchased. There is viewer information available on KEET’s website www.keet.org, and questions about the digital conversion may also be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available at www.dtv2009.gov. A good site for antenna information is www.tvfool.com.
That leaves only KIEM Channel 3 for the analoggers post Feb. 17. The NBC affiliate decided to go with Obama’s pushed back June date. And they have an all new set of annoying messages ready to tell you as much.