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DTV: How churches can ease the confusion

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–You’ve heard that digital television is coming. But what does it mean?

“There is a lot of confusion. This does not mean that you have to go out and buy a new TV,” said Tinsley, president of the Alabama Broadcasters Association.

Churches, she noted, can help alleviate the confusion.

If you have cable or satellite TV, the switch won’t affect you at all. But if you use an outdoor antenna or “rabbit ears,” you won’t receive a signal after Feb. 17 of next year. On that date, all television broadcast stations will convert from an analog signal to a digital signal. Your regular antenna won’t work anymore without a converter box that makes the signal compatible with your television.

Converter boxes can be purchased at most places where electronics are sold, such as Best Buy, Circuit City, Kmart, RadioShack, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart. Converter boxes generally cost $40–70, but two $40 coupons can be obtained from the government in one of three ways: by applying online at www.dtv2009.gov; calling 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009); or mailing an application to P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000. Coupons hold no cash value and cannot be sold or used to purchase items other than government-approved TV converter boxes. The deadline to request coupons is March 31. They expire 90 days after the date they were mailed.

With the switchover looming, churches can minister to members and others in the community by helping them make the switch.

Some examples:

— Get your youth involved,” Tinsley said. “The kids in your churches are hooked up. They have tech down. If I had a youth department, I would look at our membership list and poll them: senior adults, senior classes and homebound members and ask them if they need help. If they do, they will need [the youth] to get the converter box and help with the antenna.”

— Have the youth help senior adults apply for their coupons.

— Set up a station in your church where members can apply for converter box coupons.

— Put on a mini-seminar to educate your members on how to make the transfer from analog to digital.

— People who don’t need coupons can order them and give them to people who do need them, Tinsley said. “If 50 people in the church got 100 coupons, the youth could give them to the elderly in the church.”

— Sunday School classes could get together as a group and help purchase converter boxes for those they know need the help.

— Pastors can remind members of the coming switchover via the church’s website, church bulletin or newsletter.

— Tear out and post this article on a bulletin board as a reminder to your church members.

Television stations are conducting periodic tests for viewers of free TV to determine whether they are ready for the digital crossover. During these tests, viewers will see a test commercial in one of two ways -— either with a red background or a green background. Those who see the red background are not ready for the crossover.

“There will be some kind of slate or graphic that says if you are seeing this, you still need to take steps to make the transition,” Tinsley said.

“Every station’s test might look a little different,” Tinsley said, adding that she hopes the tests will make viewers who aren’t prepared realize that they need to act promptly. “If people flip around from station to station during [a DTV test] time and see the same red screen, it will be a wakeup call.”

On Feb. 18, the day after the changeover occurs, some people who have purchased a converter box still may not get a signal. “The biggest problem is the antenna people use,” said Mark Smith, operations manager at WAKA in Montgomery, Ala.

With analog signals, Smith said, you can adjust the antenna and pick up fuzzy signals that show a snowy picture but still have sound. Digital signals are different. “People think the digital signal will behave like an analog signal. There could be no two things further from each other than analog and digital,” Smith said.

Tinsley agreed. “With digital it is either there or it is not.”
She added that if you have been receiving a strong signal with analog, you probably would get a strong signal with digital. But if you have a weak signal and the station is barely clear on your television with analog, you will probably not get that station after Feb. 17.

Smith added that indoor antennas will be a challenge for anyone not close to a TV station’s broadcast tower. Simply placing your indoor antenna outdoors will not work for the most part, he said. “You need a bonafide outdoor UHF/VHF antenna.”

Some possible solutions for signal problems are:

— If you have a newer television with a digital tuner and do not have an antenna, you might need to get an outdoor antenna.

— If you have “rabbit ears” and you do not receive a signal, you might need an outdoor antenna.

— If you have an outdoor antenna, you might need to make it taller.

— Check to see if you have followed the instructions that came with the converter box in order to make sure that it is connected correctly.

*Rescan the tuner and/or manually press in the numbers on your remote for the desired channel.

“It’s imperative that you get your equipment now and play with it before the changeover occurs,” Smith said, “so that you will not have any questions when it does.”

To get coupons for DTV converter boxes online:

— Go to www.dtv2009.gov and click on the “Apply for a Coupon” icon.

— Fill out the needed information on the application.

— Click “Submit” at the bottom of the application.

— Allow three to six weeks from the date you submit the application for the coupon to arrive.
This article first appeared in The Alabama Baptist, on the Web at www.thealabamabaptist.org. Bryan Gill is a correspondent for the paper.

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  • Bryan Gill