Preparing for the digital TV conversion


The official conversion to digital television will happen February 17th. But one city in the country got a head start, and the lesson they learned is a lesson for all of us.

Dozens of local citizens and a throng of media from around the world converged on a small east coast town: Wilmington, North Carolina.

The town of 100,000 people agreed to be guinea pigs for the rest of the country. It converted to digital TV on September 8th; five months early.

"In the 50's & 60's, we went from black and white TV to color TV, and people thought that was fantastic. But going from analog television to digital television will wow America," said David Rehr from the National Association of Broadcasters.

But hundreds of people caught unprepared for the conversion saw their television picture disappear.

"I wanted to see it phase out right in front of my face," said Debra Gill from North Carolina.

Many flooded the switch boards of local television stations wondering what happened.

Jim Barry of the Consumer Electronics Association talked to 7 On Your Side during a visit to San Francisco.

"Most of the calls to the FCC and to the television stations revolved around issues connecting the converter box," said Barry.

The converter boxes allow viewers to continue receiving a television signal, even if you have an old analog television.

The average cost is $60, but you can get up to two $40 off coupons from the federal government.

"So what I recommend folks do, if they are relying on over the air television with an antenna on the roof or rabbit ears on the set top, if you're not going to buy a new television, do something before February 17th. Don't wait until February," said Barry.

It's estimated that 209,000 households in the Bay Area still get their TV signal from over the air antennas.

On Tuesday, ABC7 will be conducting an experiment with other 18 other stations in the area. If you see this slide tomorrow at 6:15 p.m. on your television, then you know you're not prepared for the digital TV conversion. If you don't see it, then you're good to go. You can get more information on the conversion and information on how to get a converter box coupon at

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