For Immediate Release
Contact: Mitchell Szczepanczyk
A veteran Chicago media activist group has launched a website to gather little-covered news and provide original analysis about America's conversion to digital television (DTV), along with the conversion's social dimensions and ongoing aftermath.
Chicago Media Action (www.chicagomediaaction.org) has launched a website called DTVRedAlert.org (www.dtvredalert.org), which "seeks to provide useful and timely information about the DTV transition from a public interest perspective." Even though the DTV conversion itself occurs after February 18, 2009, the DTVredalert.org website is slated to be an available resource well after the conversion.
"While there are a number of websites about the DTV conversion by various government agencies and industry groups, they all fall short of providing public-service information beyond how TV viewers can get those convertor box coupons. We hope to provide more context with this website," says Mitchell Szczepanczyk, an organizer with Chicago Media Action who helped create DTVRedAlert.org.
There are a host of little-considered facts about the DTV conversion that could lead to problems. For example:
* Those most likely to lose their TV sets in the wake of the conversion are least in a position to act and rank among the hardest communities for outreach -- tending poorer (making less than $30,000 per year), older (age 50 and above), and not speaking English (in households headed by a native Spanish speaker). 
* The much-touted $1.5 billion coupon program, which would provide two $40 vouchers to offset the cost of convertor boxes, has begun to expire after its 90 day deadline, despite pleas from consumer advocacy groups to extend or eliminate the deadlines. 
* More than a fifth of those surveyed plan to "do nothing" when the DTV conversion happens, potentially leaving hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans with less or perhaps no means of communication, and widening the digital- and informational- divide. 
With perhaps 50 million Americans affected by the DTV conversion, the scale of the DTV conversion could be unprecedented in American history. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has in Congressional testimony described the potential negative repercussions of the DTV conversion as "the mother of all consumer backlashes."
Scott Sanders, another organizer with Chicago Media Action, commented, "Some might say 'What's so bad about a bunch of TV sets going off?' But what if there is a tornado, or hurricane approaching soon after the digital transition, and you are a shut-in, or elderly, or don't speak English, and the TV is your only source of information? How will you find out about truly important and even life-threatening public information that TV does sometimes provide?"
Sources:  Statement by John Dingell (D-MI), quoting a 2005 Government Accountability Office analysis (http://www.chicagomediaaction.org/news.php?id=593)
 NTIA Clings to 90-Day Expiration Date for Coupons, Consumers Union web post, April 24, 2008
(http://www.consumersunion.org/blogs/hun/2008/04/now_hear_this_newsletter_april.html)  "CEA: 22% of Analog TV Owners to ‘Do Nothing’ for DTV", Multichannel News, November 9, 2007 (http://www.multichannel.com/article/CA6499625.html)
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