NEW YORK President Barack Obama signed legislation Wednesday officially moving the digital TV transition date to June 12. Obama pushed for a delay, arguing that too many Americans weren’t ready for the original Feb. 17 deadline.
“Millions of Americans, including those in our most vulnerable communities, would have been left in the dark if the conversion had gone on as planned, and this solution is an important step forward as we work to get the nation ready for digital TV,” Obama said in a statement.
As of Feb. 1, 5.1 percent of American homes were unprepared for the switch, per Nielsen.
The new law allows TV stations to make the switch before June 12. Nearly 500 full-power TV stations have notified the Federal Communications Commission that they would prefer to stick to the Feb. 17 date. If the FCC approves, they could join the nearly 200 that have already shut down analog signals.
Major market affiliate groups and network owned-and-operated stations of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC have indicated to the FCC that they would honor the June 12 deadline. The National Association of Broadcasters has already teed-up a spot publicizing the new date.
Congress will need to make sure it can unclog the coupon converter box program, which ran out of cash early in the year and was forced to put more than 3 million on waiting lists. Without converter boxes, older TV sets won’t be able to translate digital signals into pictures.