U.S. Government launches digital television campaign

by Brooke Hart
NBC News

Even in the age of behemoth televisions, believe it or not, up to one in five American households still get their signal using the old-fashioned antenna.

Tom Hehanas wants a new set.  He's 91, "What else can you do to pass the time?" says Hehanas.

Soon he'll need an upgrade.

In new ads, the government and broadcasters are getting the word out.

They are especially trying to reach seniors and rural areas to explain the coming, sweeping switch to digital T.V.

The countdown's online.

Consumers have choices to make the transition.

The cheapest is a converter box, available next year for about $60.
"It translates that digital signal back into analog so that your analog television set can read that signal," says Shermaze Ingram of NAB's Digital Television Transition Campaign.

The traditional antenna will work for that.

Viewers can also sign up for cable or satellite service, or buy a new set with a digital tuner.

Many newer televisions have digital tuners built in, so check to make sure you don't already have one.

The reason for switch goes back to 9-11, when congress saw a need.

"To allow the nations airwaves to be able to be used by firefighters and police and other first responders to help the nation when there might be a natural or manmade disaster," said Todd Sedmak from the National Telecommunications & Information Administration.

With better picture and sound quality, broadcasters stress that viewers win with digital.

The government will be offering coupons for those converter boxes next year.

Incidentally, a new survey shows electronics tops Americans' wish lists this Christmas; new televisions are just edged out by peace and happiness.