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After Delays, Digital Television Conversion is Complete

Analysts examine the road to digital television conversion and assess the successes and drawbacks involved in the change.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    After delays and problems, the digital television conversion will soon be complete. Jeffrey Brown has our "Media Unit" update.

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  • MAN:

    You have this television right here?

  • WOMAN:

    Yes, it's over there.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    As the final days of analog television approached, Rebecca Francis got some much-needed help from AmeriCorps volunteers to make sure she wouldn't be left behind.

  • WOMAN:

    I am getting a much clearer picture.

  • MAN:

    Yes.

  • WOMAN:

    Yes.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The nation's conversion to digital TV will be complete by 12:01 tomorrow morning. At a recent press conference, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein was relieved the end was in sight.

  • Commission:

    JONATHAN ADELSTEIN, commissioner, Federal Communications If the DTV transition were a NASCAR race, six months ago, we were lagging behind, hitting walls, crashing in burning. Since then, we have got a pit stop, a refueling from the administration and Congress. We have got a new driver, rebuilt the engine, and empowered the pit crew. Today, we're zooming along and about to see the checkered flag.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The promise of the move to digital — which began in the 1980s — was enhanced images and sound and the ability for TV stations to offer more channels with the kind of local and niche content often missing from public airwaves. In addition, the transition was intended to clear airwaves for emergency communications services and other new communications, like mobile Internet services. But there were big challenges. TV stations had to convert their equipment. Many have done so well in advance of tonight's deadline. Consumers had three options: Use a digital converter box to get a signal on their older analog sets, subscribe to cable or satellite TV, or buy a new set with digital tuners built in.

  • ANNOUNCER:

    If you watch antenna TV, get a new digital set or a converter box, like this.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    After a public education campaign by government and others and a program to issue coupons for converter boxes, most Americans made the switch. But, according to Nielsen, 2.8 million aren't ready. Earlier this week at the White House, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke raised concerns.

    GARY LOCKE, Commerce secretary: We want to make sure that families are able to not only receive their favorite programming, but, more importantly, to receive news broadcasts of emergency alerts, impending storms, and any other emergency situation within their community. It's very important that communities and people throughout our nation have the information they need to respond in times of emergencies.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Even today, staffers at the Federal Communications Commission's Washington command center continued to help people with last-minute concerns. The conversion was originally set for February, but problems with the government's plan and consumer confusion forced officials to push it back. This time, they say, it's for real and those without the proper equipment will see their favorite channel turn an empty blue.