Converting to HDTV

The new television signal means that older, analogue TV's won't work. The Houston market already had one test last year. The TV stations for several minutes and at different points in the day shut off the old signal. If your television is not ready, the screen went black with a message saying so.

"Some of the Neilson statistics have indicated Houston is probably the market with the highest percentage of unready households."

Houston PBS General Manager John Hesse says it's a concern. The hope is the tests will raise awareness and prompt people who have not taken action who need to, to do so. One of the options is to get a converter box. 40-dollar coupons are available from a government agency. The last market test prompted 14- thousand phone calls, most asking about the coupon. The number is 888-388-2009. Hesse says there are many reasons for the conversion besides a better picture quality.

"One of the main reasons behind this a number of years ago were to free up some of that bandwidth in the analogue spectrum so that it could be used for emergency communications and the military. And it also gave the U.S. government portion of spectrum that they could auction for commercial use to cell phone providers and industries of that sort."

It also gives broadcasters the chance to have multiple avenues of programming, which means more shows for viewers.

Houston PBS spokesperson Julie Coan:

"We have extended kids programs during the day on 8.1. And then on 8.2 we have how-to programs. When we are airing kids programs on 8.1, you can watch how-to programs on 8.2. And say you miss a PBS show you really love, like you miss Antiques Road Show on Monday night, you can tune in to 8.2 on Tuesday night and watch Antiques Road Show."

Coan says they estimate 23 percent of Houston PBS viewers receive the signal over the air. For some, TVs may still have to be moved around with a converter box to find the best signal reception in the house. Even if you have cable or satellite service, Coan says you'll still want to consider having a converter box in the house.

"Just in case something like Hurricane Ike happens again and you lose your cable and you lose your satellite service, with your converter box you can still receive the signal over the air."

The next HDTV test in the market will be tomorrow. And tomorrow evening at 8 pm, Houston PBS will host a one-hour call-in program to answer questions about this new world of television broadcasting. For more information, on visit theξDTV websiteξor dtv answers.com.

Capella Tucker, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.



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