Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
A survey released by the National Association of Broadcasters shows that most Montanans are aware that all television broadcasts will be in digital format on Feb. 17, and the association is now trying to make sure everyone knows what they need to do to be prepared for the switch, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. “By aware we mean they know it will happen. We want to make sure they know exactly what their options are,” said Ashley Dos Santos. A survey conducted March 29 through May 23 by Smith-Geiger LLC reported 89 percent of Montana households were aware that full-power television stations will be switching their broadcast signals and programming to an all-digital format under a federal mandate. Across the country, consumer awareness of the DTV transition is nearly universal at 90 percent. Dos Santos said an estimated 71,000 homes in Montana receive their television signal over the air, receiving free broadcasts using an antenna. Other homes using cable or satellite signals also may have a second or third television that will have to be converted to receive the digital signal. There are three options to prepare for the conversion, Dos Santos said. The consumer can keep the antenna and analog Tvs, buying a converter box that will convert the signal so it can be used. A federal program is offering coupons to help pay for the converter box, available at retail stores. About half of the 33 million coupons offered have already been distributed, Dos Santos said, so time is becoming an issue. Once the coupons are released, they must be used within 90 days or they expire and the household cannot receive a new coupon, so it is important to use them quickly once received, she added. “There is definitely some urgency to apply and to use the coupons,” Dos Santos said. Each household can receive one or two coupons regardless of how many people live at the address, she added. Households can apply for the coupons online at www.dtv2009. gov or by calling (888) dtv2009, or on the National Association of Broadcasters Web site at www.dtvanswers.com. There is a button to go to the screen to apply on each screen, she said. The second option is to replace all analog Tvs with digital Tvs, and the third is to hook all televisions to a cable or satellite system, she said. While analog televisions are no longer being manufactured, there are still many in inventory in stores. Dos Santos said some stores have stopped selling the analog sets, but others are continuing to sell them to clear their inventory. Under federal mandates, all analog televisions being sold must be clearly marked to show they will need a conversion system, she said. Dos Santos said the National Association of Broadcasters will send teams out around the country starting in the fall to make presentations so people know what the change will mean and what they need to do to prepare for it. Those presentations will continue through the Feb. 17 change date, she said.