PORTLAND — Local television viewers who haven’t made adjustments for the end of analog broadcasts may not benefit from a recent decision by Congress to delay the deadline for stations to begin digital broadcasting.
The original deadline of Tuesday, Feb. 17, is expected to be extended to Friday, June 12, if President Barack Obama – an advocate of the delay – signs a bill recently approved by Congress.
But in southern Maine, only WMTW and WCSH are expected continue to send analog signals alongside their digital transmissions.
WPXT, WPME and Maine Public Broadcasting have already stopped broadcasting in analog, so only viewers with cable, satellite or a DTV converter may be able to view their programming.
WGME and WPFO have applied to shut off their analog transmitters and are expected to switch to digital-only signals by next Tuesday.
The federal government is requiring over-the-air broadcasters to switch to digital signals to free airspace for emergency communications. Any surplus airspace will be sold to private companies to provide more space for wireless networks.
Households currently receiving signals via roof-top antennas or indoor “rabbit ears” must purchase either a digital converter box or a digital-ready television to continue to watch TV.
A federal program providing a $40 subsidy to mitigate the cost of converter boxes, which can range from $60 to $80, has already reached it’s funding ceiling. However, viewers can still apply for coupons (at www.DTV2009.gov), which will be awarded as existing coupons expire.
Although many viewers will experience better picture and sound quality with the change to digital, some low-lying rural areas and urban areas with nearby tall buildings may experience a decline in reception quality. These viewers may have to subscribe to a cable or satellite service.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected]

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