In a recent study, the FCC found that 5 percent of Tennesseans weren't prepared for February's switch from analog to digital television. That number holds true for much of America, so the FCC has been sending its representatives to 81 "town hall cities" — including Memphis — to spread the word.
FCC attorney Katherine Power was in town last week to talk about the transition, how people can get government coupons for converter boxes, and how to hook up the boxes.
Remember: If you're still watching your favorite shows via airways and an antenna, come February 17th, your television will go blank. — by Mary Cashiola
Flyer: Why the switch to digital?
Katherine Power: The switch is taking place, for one reason, because Congress mandated it. The reason Congress mandated it is it's a much more efficient use of the spectrum.
The digital signals are compressed so more can fit in a smaller space. With what is left over after the switch from analog, there will be more spectrum to use for health and public safety and for even more wireless devices, if you can imagine.
What difference will it make to viewers?
Your picture is going to be much improved. We really want to emphasize the positives with this. People will find they have better reception, the sound is better, and they will have more stations because there is more spectrum to use. A month afterward, people are going to forget what it was like before they'll be so pleased.
Even if someone uses "rabbit ears" and a converter box, they'll see a much better picture in February?
They should plug it in now. Don't wait. Digital television is on the air now.
The coupon program allows each household to get two coupons [worth $40] to redeem for two converter boxes.
So you buy your converter and you take it home and you stare at the box, but you shouldn't. You should get it out and plug it up.
What will happen to the portion of the analog spectrum that television stations currently use?
Some of it already has been sold. Health and public safety has a certain part of it. There's already been an auction. One thing people may not realize is that the coupon redemption program is not taken from tax dollars. [The money] has been taken from the sale of the spectrum.
Why give people converter box coupons?
Television has been free for all these years for people with analog sets. To incur a cost for these converter boxes, we felt the coupon program would help people make the transition for economic reasons.