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Americans not ready for DTV switch?

June 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
On Friday, June 12, the nation's television stations will be switching over to digital transmissions. However, consumer experts say half of American households are not prepared for the switch.The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sent its acting chairman, Michael Copps, around the country this week, trying to get the word out for those without cable or satellite TV. Copps says many Americans are still very confused about the digital transition, which will finally complete on Friday.

"A lot of the questions have to do with, 'What do I do with this box? How do I hook the thing up?'" said Copps. "And then when they get it hooked up, you can run into problems. Like, maybe the battery is wrapped in cellophane and people forget to take the cellophane off. Or they forget to plug the box into the wall."

According to the most recent Nielsen data, approximately 15.3 percent of all households in the Los Angeles area don't have cable or satellite television. They use over-the-air transmission for their TV, but nearly 5 percent of those households are not ready for the digital TV transition. Copps says one issue is the antenna you use.

"Try the one out that you've got before you go out to buy a new one. But you gotta make sure -- if it's rabbit ears -- that it's not only the little rabbit ears that get the VHF, but the little loop that gets the UHF," said Copps. "Because some of these digital channels will be on VHF and some are going to be on UHF. And you're going to be able to get both of those."

Even if you have a converter box and a good antenna, some TV viewers are having trouble getting a clear picture.

David Allen of Claremont is one viewer who had trouble setting up his converter box and antenna. He said the instructions didn't help.

When he finally got hooked up, David needed to scan the channel lineup on his TV. Now he is happy with his digital picture.

"Most people are going to find, 'Whoopee! This is better television. I've got a sharper picture than I had, I've got better sound than I had before and I've got more free over-the-air channels,'" said Copps.

Even if you have a converter box, antenna and are getting a clear picture now, on June 12, you will have to rescan the channels on your TV. That is because some of the TV stations will be changing places on the channel line-up. After you do that, you should have a clear picture.

If you need help hooking up your digital box, you can check out the government's DTV Web site, or you can call (888) CALL-FCC, or (888) 225-5322.

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