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Five Tampa Bay area TV stations switch to digital signals

Five Tampa Bay area TV stations are among 641 outlets nationwide that will end their analog broadcast signals by today — most at 11:59 p.m. — despite federal legislation delaying the transition to all-digital television by four months.

PBS station WEDU-Ch. 3, MyNetworkTV affiliate WTTA-Ch. 38, Univision affiliate WVEA-TV, Sarasota ABC affiliate WWSB-Ch. 7 and Christian Network Television station WCLF-Ch. 22 will eliminate their analog signals today. They join a total 36 percent of the nearly 1,800 full-power TV stations nationwide in sticking with the Feb. 17 digital TV transition date originally picked by Congress three years ago.

WTTA will offer some analog "night light" programming, explaining that their station's regular programs are only airing in digital and where viewers can get more information. The market's biggest broadcasters — including local affiliates for the five biggest TV networks — will wait longer, perhaps until the new June 12 date authorized by legislators.

If you get television through cable TV or satellite, you will notice no change. Those with television sets capable of receiving digital signals through an antenna or outfitted with a digital-to-analog converter can see stations' digital signals. But an estimated 3.49 percent of the Tampa Bay area's households, about 21,000 households, are considered "completely unready" for the switch by the Federal Communications Commission.

Here are answers to a couple of questions people still may have:

Can I still get a government-funded $40 coupon for a converter box?

The converter box coupon program amassed a wait list of 4 million people when funding ran out earlier this year, but there is extra cash for the program in President Obama's new economic stimulus bill. Federal officials say the backlog can be cleared in two weeks with the extra funding. See for information.

Will my current digital-to-analog converter be affected?

After midnight tonight, those with analog televisions attached to converter boxes should tell the unit to scan for available digital channels once again, just to make sure some stations' frequencies haven't shifted. Because some digital broadcast coverage patterns are different, you may receive a different array of channels through digital broadcasts than analog.

Five Tampa Bay area TV stations switch to digital signals 02/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 7:32am]
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