ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The switch to all-digital TV broadcasts is getting even more confusing.
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Congress has delayed the deadline for the switch to June 12, and President Obama is expected to sign the bill. But at least one station in the Twin Cities is still planning to go all-digital at the original deadline, Feb. 17. Other Minnesota and western Wisconsin stations are doing the same.
WUCW, which broadcasts on Channel 23, is switching on Feb. 17. That means viewers who watch programs on the station and rely on rabbit ear antennas won't benefit from the deadline extension.
"We have more than done our due diligence in preparing the public for the transition," said general manager Joe Tracy, noting the station has aired transition-related infomercials and participated in efforts to educate local consumers.
"Quite frankly, we don't think the public will be that much more prepared, come June," Tracy said.
Two Rochester-based TV stations, KTTC-TV and KXLT Fox 47, are also ignoring the deadline extension and going digital on Feb. 17. Jerry Watson, vice president and general manager of the stations, said fewer than 1 percent of households in the market are not prepared for the switch.
In Wisconsin, at least two stations in Madison and five in the La Crosse-Eau Claire area plan to flip the switch Feb. 17. Five stations in Iowa also will switch over that day.
Still, research by Nielsen Online found in late 2008 that 12 percent of Twin Cities residents are "completely unready" for the digital transition and 19 percent are "partially unready." And most prominent Twin Cities TV stations are taking advantage of the extension, including KSTP, WCCO and KARE.
"Congress is allowing viewers more time to make the transition, and we're going to take advantage of that extra time," said KSTP general manager Rob Hubbard. "There are significant costs associated with that, but it's worth it to allow as many people a seamless transition as possible."
"We'll have a hybrid situation for a while," said Jim du Bois of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association. "My greatest concern now is to minimize consumer confusion. We've certainly been pounding that Feb. 17 date into viewers' heads for a couple of years. Now the game has changed."