Congress Expresses Concern Over Digital TV Switch

The coming transition from analog to digital television here in the United States has some in Congress a little worried that any consumer confusion may come back on them.

On February 18, 2009, broadcasters will be required to stop transmitting programming in analog format. The spectrum freed up once the move is complete would be reassigned to other uses, including frequencies for first responders and new wireless broadband services.

But Congress isn't so excited about the transition, and is wary of consumer backlash. In a hearing Thursday by the Senate Commerce Committee on the subject, some expressed concern that the government wasn't doing enough to educate the public on the transition.


"Far too few of these consumers know that the transition from current analog television technology to digital television, or DTV, is under way," Sen. Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii) said at the hearing.

Others referred to it as a "potential for a train wreck" when it occurs. In any case, those without a digital-capable TV or a converter box may find their televisions suddenly inoperable. Some lawmakers worry those who feel they weren't informed could take it out on their elected officials.

While the digital switch would only truly have the potential to affect the 19 percent of Americans that still receive programming via antenna -- those with cable or satellite would not be affected - it's still a large enough number to concern Capitol Hill. As many as 3 out of every 5 Americans know little or nothing of the pending change, according to polls.

Thus far, government officials are defending themselves, saying they are doing what they can to educate the consumer. $5 million of the government's $1.5 billion allocation for the analog-to-digital switch has been earmarked for "public education."

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