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TV stations switching to digital signals Friday

By Drew Sechler
dsechler@salisburypost.com
Are you ready for the digital television transition? If you are still using an antenna or rabbit ears to view your favorite television shows, you need to get ready.
The long-awaited transition to all-digital signals for television broadcasting takes place Friday ó and this time it won’t be delayed, the government says ó and people without cable or a satellite dish need converter boxes to keep getting all the programming they like.
Local retailers such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, Queen City Appliance and Radio Shack said they can’t keep the converter boxes on the shelves.
The Salisbury Wal-Mart is selling Magnavox and RCA brand boxes for $49.87. Kmart is selling a Zenith brand for $49.99 and a Magnavox for $59.99, while Radio Shack is selling the Digital Stream at $59.99.
Obtaining a government coupon will knock $40 off the price of a converter box.
Basically what is going to happen, if you haven’t seen or heard the endless wave of advertisements, is broadcasters are permanently turning off the analog signals they’ve been using for more than six decades and are now moving to all-digital programming.
The Rowan County Senior Services Department has been helping senior citizens get ready for the digital transition by assisting with obtaining the coupons and then buying and setting up the converter boxes.
Sammi Ervin, social work supervisor with the Senior Services Department, said most senior citizens who have the converter boxes have already installed them and the department is mainly helping clients get the coupons.
The coupons can be obtained by applying at www.dtv2009.gov or by calling 1-888-388-2009
Ervin said the coupons are being mailed within a week after some people had problems getting them earlier.
The original Feb. 17 deadline for the digital transition was delayed by the Obama administration after funding ran out for $40 coupons. Now officials say the country is much better prepared than in February, though they still expect some viewers to be confused.
About 3.1 million U.S. homes were unprepared to receive digital signals as of late last month, according to the Nielsen Co. That’s half the number who were unprepared in February, and the number will probably decline further by Friday, as procrastinators get around to replacing old TVs or hooking them up to converter boxes or cable or satellite service.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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