Are You Ready for the Switch to Digital Television?


          Americans have become obsessed with television.  After a hard days work, many look forward to stretching out on the couch and watching their favorite sitcom or an exhilarating game on that big screen in the living room.  It has become so much of an obsession for some, that many do not know how to entertain themselves if there is, for instance, a power outage.

            Despite this obsession, many Americans are not prepared for the switch to digital television on June 12, and believe it or not, many claim they have not even heard of the digital television transition.  The transition requires all televisions to be digital to receive a signal.  If a set is not connected to cable, or already digital, a converter box is needed to receive a picture.

            The Nielsen Company, a global information and media company, reported that more than 6.5 million American households, which are approximately 5.7 percent of the U.S. population, are not ready for the transition.  However, Nielsen reported that number is an improvement of over 1.3 million homes since their last report on December 21, 2008.

            On December 21, the number of African Americans unprepared was 10.8 percent; the number of Hispanics unprepared was 11.5 percent; the number of Asians unprepared was 8.1 percent; and the number for Whites was 6.8 percent.  In addition, 9.9 percent of those under age 35 were unprepared and 5.2 percent of those over age 55 were unprepared.

            “Nielsen has been preparing for the transition to digital television for more than two years. Because we recognize that accurate and reliable information on consumer behavior is essential to this transition, we’ve been sharing our data with clients, government leaders and the public so they could track progress to digital readiness,” said Nielsen Vice Chairman Susan Whiting.

            Nevertheless, the level of preparedness is not equal when limited to various ethnic groups.  African Americans lead when it comes to unpreparedness, with 9.9 percent of households reporting that they are not ready based on Nielsen’s latest report on January 18, compared to 9.7 percent of Hispanics, 6.9 percent of Asians and 4.6 percent of Whites.  Furthermore, the percentage of unprepared citizens increases with young people with 8.8 percent of people under age 35 not ready, while four percent of people over 55 are not ready.

            “There are still millions of people who will be adversely affected because they are not ready for the digital transition,” said Ernest W. Bromley of Nielsen Hispanic/Latino Advisory Council.

            Nita Song of Nielsen Asian Pacific American Advisory Council added:  “Nielsen has played a key role in reaching out to our underserved communities and helping them understand what needs to be done.”

            Albuquerque-Santa Fe, N.M. ranks as the least prepared area in the country for digital television with 12.4 percent unready.  However, Hartford and New Haven, Conn. are the most prepared for the digital transition with only 1.8 percent of homes unready.

            “It is imperative that we operate at an accelerated pace to educate those who are at the greatest risk of losing their television service—low-income households, large numbers of senior, minority and disabled viewers,” said Cynthia Perkins-Roberts of Nielsen African American Advisory Council.  “These viewers rely on traditional television the most and can least afford to lose their television lifelines.  We have a responsibility to make sure that these groups whether in our families, churches or communities are equipped and ready for this transition.”

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