Digital television deadline: June 12, 2009

Digital television deadline: June 12, 2009
by Paul F. P. Pogue

You've probably seen the public service announcements by now: Every analog broadcast television station in the country will go dark June 12, replaced by digital signals.

People who depend on an antenna for reception will lose signal unless they have a digital-ready TV or a converter box. Homes with cable or satellite service won't be affected.

Congress pushed back the original Feb. 17 deadline at President Obama's request in order to give consumers more time to prepare. At the time, 5 million of the nation's 114 million TV-viewing households still weren't ready, according to The Nielsen Company. But this lowered by more than a million in the first six weeks after the extension and continues to steadily improve.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told Congress the date is locked in this time. "We're pretty confident that by the transition, the number affected won't be enormous," says Nielsen vice president of communications Anne Elliot.

In a recent online poll, 4.5 percent of Angie's List members said they weren't ready for the transition - an improvement from 6.9 percent last July. Nielsen's numbers indicate younger and minority households are among the most ill-prepared.

Homeowners over the age of 55 are the best-prepared - with only 1.8 percent unready. Elliot speculates it's because that age group tends to have more money available for the conversion.

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