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FCC Officials Visit Springfield To Talk About DTV

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/fccofficia_4085.mp3

Representatives from the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C. have been travelling the nation in an effort to make sure Americans are prepared for the transition to digital television. KSMU's Jennifer Moore spoke with one representative during his visit to Springfield.

One of the FCC representatives touring the country is Bill Freedman, associate bureau chief of the FCC’s media bureau, and he joined me in the studio.

Freedman will participate in a town hall meeting Thursday night (February 5) on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield. The town hall meeting is free and open to the public. It will be from 7 to 8 in the Atrium of Strong Hall on the campus of Missouri State University.

Strong hall is located at 900 South Holland in Springfield.

Congress has decided to give Americans four more months to prepare for the switchover to digital television. The new date is set for June 12.

Freedman said, generally speaking, if you subscribe to cable or satellite, you're ready to go, but he added an important point:

Some people, in an effort to save money when they subscribe to cable or satellite, only hook up some of their TV sets to the service and receive local channels through an antenna on other TVs. Those folks will need a converter box for those televisions which receive local channels through an analog TV using an antenna.

If you have a TV set with a digital tuner, regardless of whether you get your channels through cable, satellite, or an over the air antenna, like rabbit ears, you're okay and ready to go.

To see if your TV has a digital tuner, look at the markings on the TV set. If it says "digital tuner," or "ATSC," you're ready to go. Alternatively, you can look in the owner's manual, or go to the store where you bought the set and ask them.

For those people who receive their television channels through an analog TV, and only "over-the-air" stations, using rabbit ears or an antenna, they have three options:

1. They can subscribe to cable or satellite. This brings a variety of channels, but costs money each month.

OR

2. They can buy a new TV with a digital tuner. Freedman said you don't need to spend a lot of money on a large, plasma, high definition television; he said there are digital TVs on the market for slightly over 100 dollars.

OR

3. Get a converter box. That's a box that goes between your antenna and your television set. It converts the digital signal coming from the television station to an analog signal that your analog television can read. Freedman says the converter boxes are very easy to install. They come with a set of instructions which allows you to set it up and scan your TV for available digital channels. The converter boxes usually cost between $40 and $70.

Freedman said the federal government has a coupon program that helps offset the costs for viewers wishing to buy a converter box. Each coupon is $40 and each household is eligible for two coupons. People can apply by mail, or by toll-free phone number, or by the internet. The internet address is: www.dtv2009.gov, and the toll-free number is 1-888-DTV-2009.

For those who apply for the coupon right now, they will be put on a waiting list. As old, unused coupons expire, the federal government will mail out new ones to applicants on the list.

For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.