DTV Soft Shutdown Scheduled for Thursday

Broadcasters are once again cutting the power in preparation for the final DTV transition scheduled for June 12. The FCC said that several local stations would perform soft shutdown tests on Thursday to raise public awareness and ascertain levels of readiness. The soft test is essentially a temporary interruption to the analog signal. Households that lack DTV reception capability will lose regular programming and get a billboard telling them to take action or lose TV for good June 12, when 900 stations will simultaneously cease analog transmissions.

Some 3.3 million households are now in jeopardy of losing reception, according to Nielsen’s latest numbers. The National Association of Broadcasters disputes the count, however, saying that Nielsen isn’t taking into account the number of digital-to-analog converter boxes not yet hooked up to TV sets.

“The soft test is a wake-up call to consumers telling them that the time to get ready for the DTV transition is now,” said Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps. “We don’t want anyone to be left without the news, information and entertainment they need and enjoy. If you’re having trouble getting ready, you can get help right in your community and even in your own home by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC.”

The FCC doesn’t have a list or total number of stations participating in the soft tests, but rather a Web page identifying 49 “Hotspot Markets,” where over-the-air reliance is highest and the proportion of unprepared households is highest. In Albuquerque, N.M., for example, Nielsen estimates that about 8.5 percent of households--103,600--remain unprepared. In Los Angeles, the tally is nearly 5 percent, or nearly 132,000 households. The FCC’s list of Hotspots is available at it’s transition Web site. -- Deborah D. McAdams