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U.S. Households With No TV Now Number 2.1 Million

NEW YORK: Around 400,000 U.S. households have made the transition to digital television since analog signals were shut down June 12. The number comes down from Nielsen, which said as of June 21 around 2.1 million homes in the nation--1.8 percent of all TV households--still had no TV reception.

Over the weekend following the June 12 transition to all-digital broadcasting, Nielsen estimated that around 2.5 million households went without TV. The firm said the total, representing around 2.2 percent of the nation’s TV households, had been completely unprepared for the final switch too all-digital broadcasting. Around 970 of the nation’s 1,800 or so TV stations ceased broadcasting in analog Friday, June 12. Legacy TV receivers are unable to decode the digital signals that replace them without a digital-to-analog converter.

Converters are available from retailers around the country, many of which reported having a rush on them in the days surrounding the transition. (See “Retailers Inundated by DTV Callers.”) The federal agency in charge of the government subsidy for converters also reported a rush. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration received more than 319,000 requests for the $40 subsidy coupons on June 11 and another 428,000 June 12.

The average daily request rate in the days leading up to the transition was around 127,000. Households in several markets across the country lost reception to just one or two TV stations, a phenomenon of digital versus analog coverage, and in many cases, channel relocation from the UHF to the VHF band.

More than one-fourth of the 900,000 calls to FCC DTV hot line in the days after the transition were about loss of individual stations. Some signal loss was expected among more than 300 stations with a digital reach that didn’t quite equate analog coverage, but signal loss reports from New York, Philadelphia and Chicago prompted further examination by the FCC.

The ABC and CBS affiliates in Washington, D.C., for example, reported significant reaction from viewers who lost their signals. Both stations moved from UHF to VHF frequencies. In Nashville, Tenn., CBS affiliate WTVF-TV reported getting around 2,000 phone calls over the weekend following the transition from people who lost the station, according to the Tennessean. An FCC spokesman said engineers could be dispatched to the city if reception problems weren’t resolved. WTVF was one of around 260 TV stations across the country that moved from a UHF channel assignment into the VHF spectrum, where radio frequency experts have noted that DTV reception is more difficult. Another factor is that many antennas sold as “HD” or “digital” TV models are designed primarily for UHF reception.

In Boston, NBC affiliate WHDH-TV told the Boston Heraldit lost “thousands” of viewers in the transition. That station moved from UHF Channel 42 to VHF Channel 7. The station said it needed a stronger signal than what the FCC’s power level allocation currently allowed. The Herald said that the FCC received nearly 2,200 calls from people in the Boston market who had reception problems.

WTOL-TV, Raycom’s CBS affiliate, and ABC O&O WTVG-TV disappeared from many households in the Toledo, Ohio, market, the Toledo Blade said. Both also moved from the UHF to the VHF band at power levels that are now considered insufficient. -- Deborah D. McAdams

(Image by MotherPie