Switch to Digital Goes Off Without a Big Glitch

317,450 called the FCC for help on Friday; most calls came from Chicago.

Last Updated: June 14, 2009 @ 4:39 PM

The switchover of TV stations across the country from analog to digital went off without a major hitch, but with lots of phone calls, the FCC reported.

Some 317,450 consumers called the commission’s help line on Friday, bringing the total calls to almost 700,000 from June 8 through 12. Nearly a third concerned the operation of converter boxes, and most of those involved rescanning of the boxes to receive channels that had moved to new frequencies, the FCC said. About 20 percent of the calls concerned reception issues.

“I am pleased with the way our FCC team responded to the technical challenges that arose throughout the course of the day,” said Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps in a statement.  “But our job is far from over. This transition is not a one-day affair. We have known about rescanning and reception issues for some time and have been doing our best to get the word out. We will continue to work with every consumer who needs assistance in making this important and necessary transition.”

The largest volume of calls per TV household among markets registering 1,000 or more calls came from the Chicago media market, followed by the Dallas-Ft. Worth, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore markets, the FCC said.

Though many TV stations in smaller market had already turned off their analog signals before the Friday deadline, most bigger markets and virtually all the network-owned and operated stations end their analog signals sometime during the day.

A Nielsen report mid-week had caused some concern at the commission. Nationally, Nielsen said 5.1 percent of African-American households, 4.3 percent of Hispanic households — and 4.6 percent of households headed by those under 35 — still were not ready.

 

To handle problems, the FCC had put 4,000 operators on standby for calls, and  volunteers were helping elderly people set up digital converter boxes that keep older TVs functioning.

 

The FCC’s Media Bureau also monitored technical problems reported by broadcasters and granted requests to adjust power and other needed accommodations while fixes were made. And the commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology monitored and analyzed reception problems involving specific stations and markets to identify solutions.