Portlanders face hurdle in switch to digital TV

by Mariah Summers, Willamette Week

Are you ready for Digital TV? If you're a Portlander, there's a good chance the answer is no.

Ready or not, all analog television channels are switching to the digital format in less than four months.

That means if you don't subscribe to cable or satellite and don't have a digital converter box—as is the case for almost one-quarter of Portland residents—your television will be about as useful as a brick come Feb. 17, 2009.

On a four-city tour of the Northwest, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein made two stops in Portland today to speak about the upcoming airwave switch.

At the Urban League Multi-Cultural Senior Center in Northeast Portland, Adelstein spoke to a group of about 40 seniors on how to buy and install a converter box for digital television programming.

Adelstein told WW he chose to focus on Portland because we face a bigger challenge in the conversion process than most other cities.

"Portland has almost twice the percentage of people who don't subscribe to cable or satellite and will need to buy a converter box to watch programming," Adelstein said.

In Portland, we love our rabbit ears: 22 percent of people watch analog programming without a cable or satellite subscription. The national average in other cities is 11 percent.

"I don't know why Portland's percentage is so high," Adelstein said. "I think most people here would just rather be outdoors."

Worried you'll have to get a converter box to keep watching your favorite shows? You can get a coupon (up to two per family) to lessen the financial impact of the switch to digital.

article originally published at http://wweek.com/wwire/?p=14487.

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