NAB: Wilmington Stations Receive 226 Calls

According to the National Association of Broadcasters, the four major network-affiliate stations making the switch to all-digital broadcasting in Wilmington (NC) Monday received a total of 226 calls from viewers about the switch. Wilmington has an estimated 13,000 over-the-air, analog-only households -- the ones that would obviously be most affected by the end of analog broadcasts. The NAB said only one of the calls to the stations was from a viewer who was surprised by the switch, with the rest from viewers who had set up their DTV-to-analog converter boxes incorrectly, needed help adjusting their antennas or had other problems receiving a digital signal, and some who were still waiting to receive their $40 government subsidies for the boxes. In a release on the calls issued by the NAB, Andy Combs, general manager of WWAY-TV, said the lesson from those calls was that stations "need to urge their viewers to upgrade early so they can have their converter box ready to go and determine whether signal reception will be an issue in their household. Many reception issues are generally easy to resolve, but in some cases, in some areas, folks may need a better antenna. It's best to figure all of that out ahead of time." But Combs added, "By and large," the Wilmington consumer-education campaign by broadcasters and the FCC "got the job done." Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, pointed to early reports showing that "many residents were still not prepared for the transition" and pointed out that "the financial and human resources spent in the Wilmington area to best prepare its residents for the pilot transition will not be replicated in every vulnerable community." Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez -- whose telecommunications-policy arm, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, is overseeing the digital-TV-to-analog converter-box subsidy -- said, "The success of the digital switch in Wilmington shows that word is getting out and that combined private-public partnerships can effectively work."

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