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Politicians’ concern grows as analog shutdown nears

The only politicians left in office after the analog television shutdown next February will be members of Congress. Members of the Bush administration will be long gone. That’s why so many members of Congress are worried about the digital television transition.

Consumer advocates gathered on Capitol Hill last week to lobby for more money to publicize the analog shutdown amidst worry that no matter how much is spent, there will still be millions who lose free television come February.

Bertha Graham, 69, a resident in Washington, D.C. and owner of four over-the-air television sets, told the “New York Times” she is content with the picture she gets with rabbit-ear antennas to watch “The Price is Right” each week.

Graham said she lives on a fixed income and does not have money for unplanned expenses. Her son has offered to buy the converter boxes for her and help install them, but she has yet to accept his offer, saying that she disagrees with the whole thing on principle.

It’s people like Graham that concern officials in Washington. At stake “is the ability of the nation’s most vulnerable populations to maintain uninterrupted access to their key source of news and information and emergency warnings over free, over-the-air television,” Mark Lloyd of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group, told a Congressional hearing.

Last-minute demand for digital converter boxes could be so overwhelming that millions of people, many of them elderly, low-income or disabled, will lose service, members of Congress fear.

Congress has so far allocated only $5 million to educate the public about the DTV transition, far less than the cost of a single Senate campaign this election year in the United States. The DTV transition will disproportionately affect African-American and Hispanic households, said Lloyd.