FCC Spreads The Word On Digital TV Switchover In February, people who use an antenna to get television signals will have to begin using conversion boxes to watch their favorite programs. The Federal Communications Commission will start an 80-city tour this week to talk about the changes.

FCC Spreads The Word On Digital TV Switchover

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The Federal Communications Commission hits the road this week. Regulators are on a national tour to prepare people for the switch from analog to digital television. That change takes place this coming February. Viewers with cable or satellite TV won't notice a difference. People who watch for free will need a converter box, or they'll find themselves staring at a blank screen. From member station WHQR, Catherine Welch has more.

CATHERINE WELCH: A recent Nielsen survey found 13 million households aren't ready for the transition. And as the big switch nears, the FCC's embarking on what it calls an unprecedented tour of town hall meetings. But Consumers Union analyst Joel Kelsey is not impressed.

Mr. JOEL KELSEY (Analyst, Consumers Union): The clock is ticking, and we had hoped that this had started earlier. And we'd like to see a similar effort in all 210 media markets.

WELCH: Instead of every media market, the FCC road show is stopping at 80, including the least prepared cities, like Portland, Oregon, Cincinnati and St. Louis. The FCC is also reaching out to minority groups. The National Council of La Raza's Lisa Navarrete acknowledges Hispanics are the least aware and the least prepared.

Ms. LISA NAVARRETE (National Council of La Raza): I still think that the ramp up for getting information out to the Latino community has not been as quick as we would've liked. And I think that information is still not getting out there, despite some very valiant efforts by Univision and others to get the word out.

WELCH: The FCC said in a news release it recognizes the challenges of reaching analog viewers, and believes this coast-to-coast tour will boost awareness before the digital transition less than six months away.

For NPR News, I'm Catherine Welch in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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