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Editorial: Rabbit-ear reprieve

Come June 12, some people will still be confused about the transition from analog to digital TV broadcasting. They probably won’t understand why their old rabbit-eared sets aren’t picking up the usual stations, no matter how much they turn the antenna or jiggle the tin foil.
But the number should be far smaller than if the changeover had taken place on Feb. 17, in less than two weeks, as originally planned. With the four-month extension approved Wednesday by Congress, the government has more time to get the word out, and consumers have more time to prepare for the switchover, time many people need. It’s estimated that more than 6.5 million U.S. households who rely on analog TV sets and don’t have cable or satellite TV still haven’t obtained the converter boxes required to adapt their older sets to receive the new signals. Nor is that entirely the fault of procrastinating viewers who delayed seeking the $40 vouchers the government is distributing to help defray the cost of converter boxes. Congress underestimated the number of coupons needed, and some outlets ran short of converters. As of last week, 3.2 million people were still on the coupon waiting list.
The bulk of TV watchers who have newer TV sets and access to cable and satellite transmissions might wonder what the fuss is about. The switchover is seamless for them. But many of those who rely on older televisions with conventional antennas are likely to be senior citizens, in lower-income areas ó or both. They’re the ones who need more time and more help adjusting to this change, and the extension will provide it. Considering how bureaucratic bungling made the transition more complicated than it should have been, it only fair that government help reduce the static.

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