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ABQ Event Offers No-Cost Help With Digital TV Transition

June 5, 2009

Albuquerque - Time is almost up for New Mexicans to dive into digital television without getting soaked. Most stations will be switching off their old analog television signals next week, so those without a digital TV, or a special converter box, could be left with static. The boxes were meant to be free with a government coupon, but most retail prices wound up being higher than the value of the coupon, and the coupon supply didn't cover demand.

Omar Ahmed, director of communciations for the New Mexico Media Literacy Project, says those reasons are behind a DTV action event in Albuquerque today, where New Mexicans may apply for converter box coupons, pick up a free box if they already have a coupon, and ask questions about the transition and installation.

"People have lots of questions, such as 'Will I lose all my signals?' 'How do I access the current signals?' 'Do I need a special antenna?' There are a multitude of questions that come with the transition that have not been answered, and they're not being answered in English, much less Spanish."

Spanish speakers will be available at today's event to answer questions.

Such an important transition should be done in a socially responsible way, says Ahmed, and some of the confusion about the process and the transition date threatens to leave many citizens out of touch.

"Folks that aren't prepared for it, because they don't understand or they haven't been able to access the information, are cut off from what may be their sole source of information and news."

The Albuquerque event is part of a national campaign through the Media Action Grassroots Network and will take place at El Mezquite Market, Central and 98th. Similar actions are taking place in Seattle and elsewhere.

Most TV broadcasters are required to switch to digital-only on June, but some of the analog translators that broadcast to New Mexico's rural areas will be exempt for a few more years. Still, Ahmed says some of those broadcasters may switch over early, so it's better to go digital sooner than later. Satellite and cable TV customers are not affected by the switch.

More information is available at www.dtv.gov.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM