FCC visits MN to prepare for DTV switch

8:39 AM, Jan 13, 2009   |    comments
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The snowy, windy weather wasn't enough to keep away represenatives from the Federal Communications Commission.

The F.C.C.'s Bill Freedman is in Minnesota this week to talk about the digital T.V. transition.  He stopped at the Best Buy in Brooklyn Park Monday night to answer questions.

Chris Mellin needed help picking out converter boxes for two older televisions that don't use cable or satellite.

"I'm kind-of a techie and gadget geek, so it's not a big deal for me," Mellin says.  "But I know a lot of people that are older and maybe less sophisticated technologically are maybe wondering, 'How the heck is my T.V. gonna work?'"

The F.C.C. is focusing on people who use rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna.  That's 18.6 percent of viewers in Minnesota, Freedman says.  The national average is 12 percent.

Those viewers will need to buy a converter box by February 17.  More expensive options include getting cable or satellite, or buying a T.V. with a digital tuner.

But just as importantly, Freedman wants to reach people who don't need to do anything at all. 

"We don't want people to get misinformation and make unnecessary purchases," Freedman says.

Anyone who currently uses cable or satellite, or has a newer T.V. with a digital tuner will be fine on February 17.

So how do viewers know if they need to make changes?  Twin Cities T.V. stations ran a test Monday night at 6:30 p.m. 

Television sets that are ready for the transition didn't see the test.  But televisions that aren't ready saw a five-minute message advising them on what to do before February 17.

The federal government is giving out $40 coupons to buy converter boxes.  But right now there's a wait for the coupons.  So viewers who need them are advised to get on the waiting list now.

President-elect Barack Obama said last week he wants to push back the D-T-V switch, but it's unclear if that will actually happen.

For more information on the digital transition, click here.

By Joe Fryer, KARE 11 News


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(Copyright 2009 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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