Thinking Inside the Box

Have $94 Wal-Mart Special and Converter Box Will Travel

by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV


by Ellis Bromberg
MPTV General Manager

In case you haven't heard, the television industry is undergoing one of the most significant changes in its history. The over-the-air TV stations we've enjoyed our entire lives (they're known as "analog" TV) will cease their transmissions on February 17.

No need to panic, though: they'll be replaced by new digital stations.

The change will be relatively seamless for those who have newer sets with digital tuners, and cable and satellite subscribers.

But 19.1 percent of the households in the Milwaukee area rely solely on those good old-fashioned rabbit ears or rooftop antennas in order to watch Channels 10 and 36 and the other local stations. If you're among this fifth of the local population, you must take action to ensure that next February you will be able to watch your local stations.

Even if you have cable or satellite, you may have a TV set in a spare room, or your workshop, or a summer cabin that picks up an off-air signal -- and if so, you, too, must take action or that set will pick up nothing after this transition (which we also refer to as "the analog shutoff").

We've been running announcements on our stations, and we've put together an excellent website that explains the situation. On our homepage, click on the "Are you ready for Feb 17, 2009?" box at the upper left, or go to this address: mptv.org/tech/digital.php.

There you can also find out about the federal government's coupon program, which will enable families to save money on buying two converter boxes for their homes -- those boxes will enable older "analog" TV sets to receive the new digital signals.

The digital transition has become a hot item for programs at service groups and community organizations this year, and I (and others at MPTV) are filling up our calendars with speaking engagements. We love to do it -- and it's important that we do it so that some of our most loyal viewers and members who have long eschewed cable and satellite subscriptions ("because your programs on public TV are the only ones I ever watch" -- I hear that all the time!) will know how to find the MPTV stations after the transition.

At my presentations I bring along:

- a converter box, so I can show folks who want to continue to use their old sets what the converters look like and how easy they are to install and operate; and
- a $94 13" Durabrand digital TV set -- the smallest and least expensive set I could find at Wal-Mart -- to disprove the common impression that you have to pay thousands of dollars and sacrifice a full wall of your home in order to watch digital television.

You're going to continue to hear more and more about this, on-air and in print. And we and our fellow members of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association are planning to have a large display at the State Fair this summer in West Allis that will explain all the changes.

If you'd like me or one of our other very capable staff members to speak with your group, we'd be happy to! Please call the MPTV Speakers Bureau at 414-297-7514.