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FCC investigates downside to DTV conversion

The FCC is looking into who might become disenfranchised from television by the transition to DTV.

HDTV Magazine News reports that the commission wants to be armed with some answers for lawmakers anxious to avoid leaving their constituents without TV. Members of Congress are cautious about disenfranchising a large number of voters, leaving them with no TV service, especially if they are too poor to buy new digital equipment or if they are disproportionately elderly.

The questions to be asked, said FCC Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree are: When stations turn in their analog frequencies to move to all digital sometime after 2006, how many people who don’t subscribe to cable or satellite will be left without TV service? Are they the elderly? The poor? Do they even watch TV or care that they will no longer have an over-the-air signal to watch?

Ferree has also suggested people who can’t afford DTV equipment on their own be provided free or subsidized digital-to-analog converters that will keep their old sets working. There would be no point in subsidizing at all, however, if many in the 15 percent category are financially secure or simply don’t care about TV, the report noted.

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