Television viewers who haven’t purchased a digital converter box yet can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to a congressional act extending the transition.
But Clovis viewers will probably get only a handful of digital signals when the switch does happen. And that means buying special convertor boxes to continue receiving free network TV across the region.
Congress voted Wednesday to delay the transition of digital television broadcasts until June 12.
But low-power translators used to extend network signals from cities such as Amarillo and Albuquerque aren’t required to upgrade to digital by the deadline, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Clovis and Portales receive 10 channels through low-power translators in the area, according to a list from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
So, Clovis consumers will have to make sure the digital converter boxes they purchase include an analog pass-through function, according to the National Association of Broadcasters.
The function will allow Clovis viewers to receive both digital and analog signals on their television sets.
“You have to have it ,” said North Plains Mall Radio Shack Manager Bob Standridge.
Standridge said low-power translator stations are an exception to the federal digital conversion mandate.
That’s because it would be too expensive for broadcast stations to upgrade the low-power translators — there are just too many, said Standridge.
The upgrade would cost between $50,000 to $75,000 for each translator, according to local broadcasters.
Standridge said consumers can use a federal government-issued $40 coupon to purchase converter boxes with the analog pass-though function. That is, if Congress enacts more funding for the coupon program.
The program ran out of money last December and stopped mailing the free coupons to consumers.
Standridge said he became aware of the problem when consumers came to his store complaining the converter boxes they bought were not working because they only received digital signals.
Now, both Radio Shack locations in Clovis only sell converters with the analog pass-through function.
At Wal-Mart, converter boxes with the analog pass-through function will be available soon, according to an employee.
Congress delayed the digital conversion deadline amid concerns that a majority of consumers wouldn’t be prepared by the original Feb. 17 deadline.
Nationally, more than 5.8 million households are not ready for the conversion, according to a Neilsen Co. report.
And the Albuquerque - Santa Fe market is the least prepared with more than 12 percent of households unready to receive digital signals, according to the report.
Low-power translator stations that provide free TV locally:
Source: National Telecommunications and Information Administration