Analog-to-digital TV change mystifies most adults: Consumer Reports

The big-box consumer electronics stores are going to salivate over parts of this one.

More than half of television owners who are aware of the analog-to-digital transition scheduled for February 2009 erroneously believe that every set will need a converter box by that time, according to a Consumer Reports survey of 1,013 adults being released today.

Worse yet if not necessarily surprising, a third of Americans are utterly oblivious to the upcoming change, and, of those in know, three-quarters hold major misconceptions about the consequences.

Worst of all, unless you run a big-box electronics store, the U.S. is planning on spending a paltry $6.5 million - as compared to Great Britain's $450 million - to educate its citizenry about the matter and make sure people don't spend money unnecessarily, Consumer Reports says.

"Confusion about the digital television transition will cost consumers a lot of money for equipment they may not want or need," said Joel Kelsey, policy analyst for Consumers Union, says in a press release. "Based on these survey results it is now clear that the government and every media company that profits from consumers watching television must do whatever it takes to help consumers keep getting broadcast TV, without paying a dime more than necessary."

More misconceptions from the survey: 48 percent believe only digital TVs will work after the deadline; and, 24 percent believe their analog TVs will need to be thrown out.

From the Consumer Reports release:

Based on the Consumer Reports survey, 99 percent of adults live in a household with at least one television, and many have two or more. According to the poll, 15 percent of Americans live in households that rely exclusively on over-the-air programming. If these consumers do not take some action before February 2009, like buying a converter box, over three quarters (78%) will have no televisions able to receive a signal. That is 11 percent of Americans adults, or approximately 23 million adults, who would be unable to watch TV.

By the way, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin just recently reiterated that the February 2009 deadline will not be extended.

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