Although the Cassville Senior Center hosted several meetings about the digital television transition last year, administrator Linda Parker believes most area seniors will not realize they have a problem receiving television until after Feb. 17.
"We have had several programs on the conversion, and we have distributed flyers to our homebound seniors to make sure everyone is aware," said Parker. "We've tried to keep them informed, but I think when it happens several of our local seniors will say oops."
The most common question that local seniors have about the digital conversion is "why do we need this?" said Parker.
According to the DTV website, the digital television transition is designed to provide viewers with a clearer broadcast signal and increased programming and to free up parts of the broadcast spectrum for emergency services.
Plans have been established to give broadcast channels to police and fire departments. Some channels will also be auctioned to wireless service providers.
"They are also asking, 'is my television not going to work anymore?' and 'will I need to buy a new TV?'" said Parker. "Other seniors, who have cable or satellite services, have asked if they need a converter box also."
In order to continue viewing free television broadcasts, many residents who own televisions that were made before 2004 will need to buy an analog-to-digital converter box. Individuals who receive cable or satellite services will not be affected by the switch to digital television.
To offset the financial burden of purchasing an analog-to-digital convertor box, last year, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration began offering each United States household up to two $40 coupons to purchase two converter boxes.
Recently, the government announced that, due to a funding shortage, individuals who applied for a coupon this year will be placed on a waiting list. Additional coupons will be issued as funding becomes available. The deadline to apply for a coupon is March 31.
Although applying for a coupon, purchasing a converter box and installing the digital converter can be overwhelming, Parker said that many area seniors are receiving help from relatives, neighbors and friends.
"I think this has affected our homebound seniors the most," said Parker. "They don't get out to talk to others about these issues, and they can't go shopping for the equipment."
There are no other digital television programs scheduled to be held at the Cassville Senior Center, but Parker said she will continue to remind seniors about the approaching transition. The center has flyers available for seniors who need more information.