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Merrimack Valley

June 11, 2009

Local TV viewers appear to be ready for switch to digital

Local viewers appear ready for switch to digital TV broadcasting

At this point, there's almost no excuse.

People who don't know that tomorrow is the day their TV broadcast signal switches from analog to digital have either been living in a cave without TV or are simply tuned in to the wrong channel.

"There are not very many people left who are going to be affected by it," said Rick Battistini, whose family owns Haverhill TV & Appliance at 27 Washington St.

The original Feb. 17 deadline for the shutdown was delayed at the request of the Obama administration after funding ran out for $40 coupons the government offered to help people buy converter boxes for old TVs.

Now, officials say the country is much better prepared than in February, though they still expect some viewers to be confused.

About 3.1 million U.S. homes were unprepared to receive digital signals as of late last month, according to the Nielsen Co. That's half the number that were unprepared in February, and the number will probably decline further by tomorrow, as procrastinators finally get around to replacing old TVs or hooking them up to converter boxes or cable or satellite service.

Some people may believe the analog shutdown will be put off once again. But President Obama debunked that with a statement last week: "I want to be clear: There will not be another delay."

By tomorrow, older, non-digital TV sets will lose all major channels unless they have an antenna and a converter box that allows them to receive digital signals, or if they are hooked up to cable, satellite or Verizon FIOS-TV.

For the past two years, federal, state and local authorities have been bombarding TV viewers with information about the switch, which is being made to free up the broadcast spectrum for public safety channels used by police and fire departments.

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