DTV transition leaves LPTV with a chip on its shoulder


The Community Broadcasters Association is stunned that some of the digital-to-analog converter boxes approved for distribution are not equipped to pass through analog signals, a fact which could be seriously detrimental to the operations of large numbers of LPTVs, Class As, translators and even some full-power stations which will continue broadcasting analog signals after 2/17/09. The purpose of the boxes is to pass through stations off-air to households retaining their analog receivers, but CBA VP-Technology Greg Herman told RBR that boxes failing to include an NTSC chip will only pass through broadcast digital signals, blocking analog broadcasts.

The only recourse available to affected consumers will be to unplug their converter box and reattach their rabbit ears to pick up an analog television broadcast. Herman noted the example of the lone local digital station in Bend OR. Bend citizens will be able to pick it up off the air, but will lose access to numerous Portland OR stations available off-air in Bend only via analog translators.

CBA President Ron Bruno said, "Converter boxes that block our analog LPTV signals will confuse viewers and significantly decrease LPTV viewership." The group has lodged an official complaint with the FCC, and threatens to seek redress for lost viewers and revenue. Herman concluded, "It will be substantially less expensive to correct this problem now instead of recalling 70M boxes and paying our industries’ lost revenues later."

TVBR observation: Herman says adding an analog pass-through to the boxes would be a relatively inexpensive fix. It seems to us its either that, or the government steps in an builds digital plants for all the affected analog stations, or buys all affected citizens a digital receiver. We doubt there will be much debate as to which course makes the most sense at this late date in the transition.