12-08-2016  6:02 pm      •     

Despite voting down this same bill a week ago, Congress has now voted to approve a bill that will move the digital television transition deadline from Feb. 17 to June 12. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation.
Procrastinators beware: national deadlines don't matter -- many television stations may be switching over within the next few weeks no matter what Congress says, because delaying the switch to all-digital will cost stations money.
Under the law, television stations will still be allowed to make the switch early, requiring televisions without digital receivers, cable or satellite service to attach a digital converter box to the analogue antennae.
Tom Hayden of Oregon Public Broadcasting told The Skanner last week that not making the switch will cost OPB $65,000 in electricity alone. Across America, it would cost the Public Broadcasting Service $22 million to put off the transition until June 12.
Congress originally failed to pass this bill when it was on a fast-track path through the House – requiring a two-thirds majority vote. Many Republicans oppose the delay.
Officials in Portland and Seattle had already stepped in to help unprepared consumers. Jonathan Lawson of Seattle's Reclaim the Media organization, says too many households will lack digital converters when the analogue signals die.
"People just aren't ready," he said. His organization applauded the move by Congress.
In Portland, a number of organizations – including the Urban League, IRCO and Elders in Action -- have partnered with City Commissioner Amanda Fritz and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund to provide information and access for the transition.
"It's a national issue people are grappling with all over the country," said Midge Purcell of the Portland Urban League. "Many are aware … but it's not on some people's radar. People who haven't acted in a timely manner will find themselves without television (on Feb. 18)."
One of the major concerns of organizers is the growing waiting list for converter box coupons. In Portland, the Immigrant and Refugee Center has established a DTV Assistance Center at their offices on

10301 NE Glisan St

. The center will hold coupon waiting list drives, distribute coupons into communities, offer technical support and even travel to some high-need residences. Oregon Public Broadcasting is also operating a call center for the transition at 800-241-8123.
"We're opening our center to help Portland residents smoothly transition to digital TV," said Rob Kidirov of IRCO. "Folks who use rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna for over-the-air television signals will need a converter box. If they haven't already signed up for the government coupon program, that provides a discount on the converter box, people should get on the new waiting list now."
In Seattle, city officials are calling on stores to offer converter boxes at the same price as the discount coupon. Currently, no retail outlets in Seattle offer a $40 or $45 box – the cheapest box in Seattle stores is $60. Mayor Greg Nickels and the city council have sent letters to local electronics retailers in an attempt ensure at least one consumer option is available for free – if a consumer is able to obtain a coupon and use it before its expiration date. Consumers may reapply if they have allowed their coupons to expire.
"The cost of these converter boxes is a burden for low-income people, who are also the most dependent on over-the-air TV," Lawson said. "Problems with the federal coupon program are making the boxes even more expensive. Retailers ought to provide the entire range of consumer choice. The $40 boxes are out there. Why aren't they on the shelves of stores in Seattle?"
Portland's Elders in Action are helping older Oregonians to obtain coupons, converter boxes and technical assistance for the conversion. They're encouraging community members to reach out to senior citizens about the conversion. Elders in Action are also collecting extra, unexpired coupons, converter boxes or digital antennas.
Leslie Foren, director of operations for Portland's Elders in Action, says they're trying to reach the most vulnerable seniors who rely on television not just for entertainment but also for access to news and information.
Elders in Action is partnering with Loaves and Fishes, the Meals on Wheels people, to ensure homebound seniors are aware of the conversion and have a way to convert their televisions.
"People can still get boxes at a reasonable rate, but the availability of low cost boxes is diminishing," the Urban League's Purcell said.
The best advice organizers are giving people is simple: Be prepared to switch before June 12 if you want to watch over-the-air television.
. The center will hold coupon waiting list drives, distribute coupons into communities, offer technical support and even travel to some high-need residences. Oregon Public Broadcasting is also operating a call center for the transition at 800-241-8123."We're opening our center to help Portland residents smoothly transition to digital TV," said Rob Kidirov of IRCO. "Folks who use rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna for over-the-air television signals will need a converter box. If they haven't already signed up for the government coupon program, that provides a discount on the converter box, people should get on the new waiting list now."In Seattle, city officials are calling on stores to offer converter boxes at the same price as the discount coupon. Currently, no retail outlets in Seattle offer a $40 or $45 box – the cheapest box in Seattle stores is $60. Mayor Greg Nickels and the city council have sent letters to local electronics retailers in an attempt ensure at least one consumer option is available for free – if a consumer is able to obtain a coupon and use it before its expiration date. Consumers may reapply if they have allowed their coupons to expire."The cost of these converter boxes is a burden for low-income people, who are also the most dependent on over-the-air TV," Lawson said. "Problems with the federal coupon program are making the boxes even more expensive. Retailers ought to provide the entire range of consumer choice. The $40 boxes are out there. Why aren't they on the shelves of stores in Seattle?"Portland's Elders in Action are helping older Oregonians to obtain coupons, converter boxes and technical assistance for the conversion. They're encouraging community members to reach out to senior citizens about the conversion. Elders in Action are also collecting extra, unexpired coupons, converter boxes or digital antennas. Leslie Foren, director of operations for Portland's Elders in Action, says they're trying to reach the most vulnerable seniors who rely on television not just for entertainment but also for access to news and information.Elders in Action is partnering with Loaves and Fishes, the Meals on Wheels people, to ensure homebound seniors are aware of the conversion and have a way to convert their televisions."People can still get boxes at a reasonable rate, but the availability of low cost boxes is diminishing," the Urban League's Purcell said.The best advice organizers are giving people is simple: Be prepared to switch before June 12 if you want to watch over-the-air television.

 

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