On Friday, June 12, the old fashioned way of watching TV, with rabbit ears and roof-top antennas, will become obsolete.
On that date the federal government has mandated the complete transition from analog to digital TV, ushering in the biggest change in how television is broadcast into consumers' homes since the advent of color TV half a century ago.
Digital broadcasting provides a clearer picture, more channels and will free up airwaves for use by emergency responders.
If you are not ready, the only thing you will see when you turn on your TV on June 13 is a blank screen.
While consumers have known of this change for several years, according to Nielsen, the world's leading marketing and media information company, currently about 3.1 million households would lose TV service if analog transmission ceased today. According to an article in Television Broadcast Magazine, "Among demographics, African Americans represent the highest ratio of unprepared households at 5.4 percent. Hispanics are next at 4.7 percent. Among Asian households, 3.2 percent are unprepared."
Losing TV service may be a minor inconvenience for most of us, but for many people, especially seniors, residents of nursing homes, low-income families and people with disabilities, television is much more than a luxury.
It is a lifeline to the outside world, a primary source of news and information and the place they turn to first in times of public emergency. That is why it is especially important that these people are not left behind when the transition from analog to digital TV takes effect on June 12.
If you are one of the unprepared, there is still time to take action. Your options include:
Keep your existing analog TV and purchase a TV converter box with or without a government coupon. A converter box plugs into your TV and will keep it working after your local stations stop analog broadcasts no later than June 12, 2009; connect to cable, satellite or other pay service; purchase a television with a digital tuner.
June 12 is only days away. If you have not made the switch to digital TV, do it today.
Marc Morial is president of the National Urban League.