FCC trying to reach viewers

May 22, 2009

As the United States prepares to switch from analog to digital TV broadcasts June 12, the Federal Communications Commission is trying to reach viewers at risk of losing their service.

The FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration have identified the Washington, D.C., market -- which includes Hagerstown -- as a "hotspot" in which "a significant number of households are currently unprepared for the transition," according to an FCC news release.

The FCC did not have a more specific breakdown looking at Hagerstown.

Nationwide, about 3.3 million households -- 2.9 percent of U.S. households with TVs -- are not ready for the digital transition, according to a Nielsen estimate cited by the FCC.

Viewers who do not subscribe to cable or satellite TV service could lose their TV signal if they don't obtain a converter box.


On June 12, all full-power TV stations in the U.S. will stop using analog broadcast service and will transmit only digital signals, according to the FCC.

The switch will provide better sound, a better picture, more channels and more programs, and will clear the airwaves for better first-responder radio service, the FCC's news release says.

A Web site dedicated to the transition,, shows how coverage is expected to expand in the Hagerstown area.

A reception map can be found at the site by typing 21740 in the "Your ZIP Code" box and clicking on the magnifying glass. Then, click on "DTV Reception Maps."

To see how reception of NBC25 will change, click on "WHAG," then click on "gain/loss map." Clicking on the map again will enlarge it.

The TV station's reception will expand in the four states it covers. The green dots show the areas that will gain coverage.

Digital television - Q&A

Here are some questions and answers from the Federal Communications Commission about the transition from analog to digital TV broadcast.

Q: When is the transition going to happen?

A: June 12 is the final deadline for TV stations to stop analog broadcasts

Q: Why does the changeover mean?

A: Digital broacasts are supposed to have better sound and a better picture. There will be more channels and more programs. Also, it's supposed to make room on the airwaves for better first-responder radio service.

Q: How do I know if I'm affected?

A: People who have cable or satellite TV service should be safe and don't have to do anything more for the transition. People with a digital TV also are ready. Any TV that is more than 10 years old probably is not digital.

Q: What do I do if I have an analog TV?

A: If you are not connected to a cable, satellite or other pay TV service, you need a converter box. They cost $40 to $70 at retail stores. The federal government is issuing up to two $40 coupons per household to pay for converter boxes (one coupon per box).

Q: Where can I find more information about the converter boxes?

A: At the Web site There also is a toll-free number: 888-388-2009 (voice) or 877-530-2634 (TTY).

Q: Where can I find more information about the digital conversion?

A: At the Web site There also is a toll-free number: 888-225-5322 (888-CALL-FCC) or 888-835-5322 (888-TELL-FCC).

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