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Winter Storm Avery takes lives, puts the brakes on commutes across the Northeast. Also on our Friday rundown: A first-of-its-kind report calls for policies to ease transitions of young people living in foster care. And "got gratitude" this holiday season? It could benefit your health.

Daily Newscasts

Bridging the Digital Divide for Idaho

June 8, 2009

Boise, ID – This week, as Americans tune in to a new kind of television, advocacy groups are making a last-minute push to ensure that the switch from analog to digital signals does not leave those most in need of free TV - in the dark.

Television's "digital age" starts this Friday, June 12. It's the official day for the switch to DTV, which means Idahoans who rely on free, over-the-air TV on older television sets must have a digital converter box hooked up or all they'll see is snow on the screen.

Jonathan Lawson, of the Northwest-based advocacy group Reclaim the Media, says TV stations have been doing a good job explaining that the change is near. However, the people who most depend on their older-model television sets with the "rabbit-ear" style antennas are the ones who are least likely to know about switch. Some, he adds, can't afford the change.

"Free TV is a lifeline of public safety information and local news for a lot of people. That's more true for low-income folks, for seniors and for immigrants, than it is for any other group."

Congress authorized $40 discount coupons to allow people to obtain converter boxes free or at very little cost. Lawson says there are plenty of online sites where you can get a converter box for the value of the coupon - but finding a box at a local electronics store at the coupon value is not so easy.

"The government coupons, still available for free, will provide $40 off of the cost of the box, but unfortunately, local retailers have mostly been selling boxes in the $60 to $100 range."

In the Boise area, there are several DTV information events and clinics scheduled this week. Find them online at dtv.gov/map.htm?state=ID&x=7&y=2. On the dtv.gov Web site, see details on how to hook up a converter box, or get answers to frequently asked questions, both in English and Spanish.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID