A panel at the Consumer Electronics Show, discussing the Feb 17 deadline for a mandatory U.S. switch to a nationwide digital television system, were less than keen on President-Elect Barack Obama’s backing of a proposal for a delay. The idea of postponing was floated amid fears viewers were unprepared and funding problems for a government program to provide $40 coupons for consumers to buy digital-to-analog converters.
“Delaying the transition in my opinion, you’re just delaying the same problems,” said Emily Neilson, president and general manager of KLAS-TV a Las Vegas CBS affiliate who said that about 7 percent of consumers were still not ready for the change over. She said that while the transfer was not likely to go perfectly, the problems would eventually be ironed out. “I think most of the people waiting on the coupons don’t need the $40 and I’d like to give those to the people who truly need it,” she said.
Henry Hauser, a display product manager for television maker Panasonic said it did not make sense to delay and that the transition would only see isolated snafus. “We feel it would be better to just end the confusion. People are going to delay until they don’t have a picture and then they’ll go get it,” he said. “We feel very strongly it should go forward”
But Lynn Mento, senior vice president at AARP, said that the advocacy group for people over 50, effectively supports the delay as it could help them to get more convertor coupons to the people who need them.
“We have been working to try to communicate to our members that if they have coupons to please donate them … The added time would give us more time to get those messages out.”