Flipping the switch to DTV, millions still in the dark

Today’s the big day! The nationwide switchover from analog to digital television broadcasts, originally scheduled for Feb. 17, is in full-swing today.

Sadly, despite the prolific education efforts of the Federal Communications Commission and television broadcasters, 2.8 million households aren’t ready for the transition, according to the latest figures from Nielsen.

By demographic, Nielsen found that African American, Hispanic and younger households are disproportionately unprepared.

The number of households that Nielsen estimates haven’t subscribed to cable or purchased a converter box represents 2.5 percent of the television market.

Still, 2.8 million is well down from the 5.8 million homes Nielsen estimated were unprepared in February, when Congress moved to delay the transition.

In the meantime, Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps pledged today that the agency will be on high alert to help people who flip on their TVs only to find they have no picture.

The FCC is planning to issue a status report on the transition tomorrow afternoon, which will include data on the volume of problems handled by the 4,000 people staffing the agency’s call centers.

By law, every full-power station must switch over to digital by 11:59 EST today, but the transition is happening on a rolling basis throughout the day. Many stations went ahead and converted early. The FCC offers a list of transition times (A.M., P.M., early morning or evening) in column K on an Excel spreadsheet available here.

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