DTV Doomsdays Predicted

Early California shut-off expected to leave TVs behind

As many as 20,000 Northern California residents may have lost TV reception today, according to The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper of record reported that Fox, CBS and NBC stations serving Chico and Redding would be going digital-only as of today.

It goes on to say the government estimates put the number of U.S. homes relying exclusively on over-the-air television at around 20 million. The New York Times used the same number in its own doomsday article. The Government Accounting Office released that figure about two years ago and the National Association of Broadcasters is sticking to it. Another federal agency down the street within the Commerce Department says there are 14.3 million such households. The actual number is a continued matter of conjecture.

WSJ said Ohio broadcasters were “flooded” with phone calls last week after 40 stations did a coordinated soft shutdown there. The Ohio Association of Broadcasters was said to receive about 7,500 calls before its phone banks crashed.

HDTVExpert Pete Putman said he helped man the phones recently for KYW, the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia, during a DTV transition information program.

“We got several thousand calls,” Putman said in an e-mail. “Many were questions about getting the NTIA coupons, and some about connection problems. One caller was actually receiving five Philly DTV stations with no antenna connected to her converter box! I spent nearly 15 minutes on the phone with one legally blind caller, talking him through the converter-box hook-up procedure. He eventually got it right. Another caller was yelling at me that her remote control didn't work right and that her converter box didn't work. I eventually got her to hit the right keys and start a successful DTV channel scan.”

Other calls veered off track from time to time. I listened to callers complaining about the ‘government conspiracy against senior citizens,’ the merits of different antennas, why they didn't start this ‘switch-off of TV’ 10 years ago, and why someone's son never visits even though ‘he's a big-shot DJ and is taking a two-week cruise with his daughter, but can't find the time to come by and hook up his 77-year-old mother's converter box.’”

I also had an irate called claiming her mother's identity had been stolen and someone else was getting their converter box coupons.”

and finally…

“Four callers demanded Andy Reid be fired as the Eagle's head coach.”

Reid was unavailable for comment on the DTV transition.