FCC Chair: Putting off digital TV will confuse people

DURHAM As of February 17, all analogue television signals will no longer be broadcast by local television stations. That means people with older television sets will need a converter box to keep receiving signals if they're not connected to cable or satellite to get their programming.

Click here for more information about the switch

Some in Congress and President-Elect Obama have suggested pushing back the date until this summer. They say there are too many people who haven't purchased digital television converters. The federal program that provides coupons for people to buy them is also out of money.

But Commission Chairman Kevin Martin told the Associated Press that going past the current February 17 date will only confuse people. Martin said it's important to make sure that the converter box subsidy program gets back on track, but that doesn't mean delaying the analog turnoff is necessary.

"There are options they can do without having to delay to get coupons flowing immediately," Martin said.

Congress could give the program additional funding, or eliminate the 90-day expiration deadline on the coupons, he said.

Martin also pointed out that consumers have been repeatedly told the date of the switch is February 17. It's been widely advertised by local television stations, and he says changing that will add to the confusion that's already out there about the switch.

"I'm concerned about a delay in the sense that if you can solve that issue other ways, a delay has actually the potential to confuse consumers," said Martin. "All of our messaging has been about Feb. 17 - not just ours - the industry's."

But others at the FCC have a different view.

"This program has been badly mismanaged. It's not ready for prime time," offered Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein. "There are so many elements of the preparation that have not been undertaken ... We don't have program in place in the field to help people who need assistance in their homes. The phone banks are inadequately prepared."

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