For several months I’ve had a small banner announcing the transition to digital television in the United States on the right side of Television Obscurities. I’ve been looking forward to taking it down on February 17th but now it looks like I’ll be keeping it (or a slightly different version) up for the next four months.
The House of Representatives passed a bill today that will delay the switch to digital from February 17th to June 12th, once it is signed by President Obama. CNN.com reports that some 6.5 million households with television would potentially lose service on February 12th and that there are 3.7 million people on a waiting list to receive $40 coupons for digital converters (money for the coupon program has run out but it will presumably be replenished during the next four months).
Despite the delay, stations can, have and will switch to digital before June 12th and perhaps even before February 17th. According to Broadcasting & Cable:
It will now be up to broadcasters to decide when to make the switch between now and June 12, since the bill allows them to move early so long as they clear it with the FCC.
The FCC said Tuesday that over a thousand stations would still be able to turn off their analog signals before June 12 if they choose to.
Some stations have already indicated they are sticking with the Feb. 17 date. The FCC said it had heard from 276 stations to that effect, in addition to 143 stations that had already pulled the plug, and another 60 who said they planned to do so before Feb. 17. The FCC had pointed out that some of those 276 may change their minds once the date changes.