Fans of Denver public television station KBDI who haven’t converted to digital reception will be in the dark until Jan. 16, the station announced on its Web site. The station, which airs on Channel 12, is giving viewers a taste of the digital future, when old-fashioned rabbit-ears antennae will only pick up static, as KBDI fine-tunes its transmitter. Viewers who watch the station over cable or satellite systems won’t notice any difference.
At the same time, President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday urged Congress to delay the shut-off of analog broadcasts past the Feb. 17 conversion date, in part because the federal program that gives consumers coupons for converter boxes is out of money. For now, owners of the estimated 70 million TV sets that don’t receive digital signals can add their names to a waiting list for the $40 coupons, which aren’t expected to arrive until after Feb. 17. Each household can request two coupons, good only against the purchase of digital converter boxes, which typically cost $50 to $80.
Here’s what KBDI posted on its main page, along with a link to its digital conversion page:
OVER-THE-AIR SIGNAL OUTAGE
KBDI is currently making adjustments to its transmitter in preparation for the digital transition on February 17th. As a result, KBDI programming will not be available to over-the-air analog viewers until the work has been completed. We anticipate this work will be finished by January 16th.
Viewers who haven’t made the conversion yet — by purchasing a newer TV with a digital receiver or retrofitting an older set with a digital converter box — will be able to catch favorite programs on KBDI’s video-on-demand site, albeit sometimes days after the programs air.
Obama’s request came on the heels of a Consumers Union request to delay the digital switchover because consumers have been unable to get converter boxes.
“The federal government is getting $19 billion from selling the analog TV spectrum while people with analog TVs have to go out and spend their own money for a converter box,” said Joel Kelsey, policy analyst for Consumers Union, in a statement. “Everyone affected by the digital switch should be able to get their $40 coupons. Congress needs to consider delaying the transition until these problems are fixed.”
The government auctioned off the current broadcast TV spectrum last year, with most of the winning bids going to cell phone providers Verizon and AT&T.