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Digital TV set for February

COVINGTON - In less than two months, analog broadcast television will transition to an all-digital system.

All full-power television stations must end analog broadcasts after Feb. 17.

Television owners with satellite or cable TV should not be affected by the change, according to the Digital Television Transition Coalition, a group of business, trade and industry groups formed to educate the public about the switch.

The transition should also go smoothly for those watching digital TVs via antenna, because only over-air signals will be affected and digital TVs have built-in analog tuners.

Only those receiving analog television over the air or via antenna will need to take action to continue to have access to free broadcasting and local television stations.

Those who fall into that category have three options. One is to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box that plugs into an existing television. The boxes cost between $40 and $70. The federal government is offering two coupons valued at $40 each to go toward the purchase of a single set-top converter box. To order coupons, go to www.dtv2009.gov or call 1-888-388-2009.

Another option is to subscribe to a cable, satellite or telecommunications service provider. Charter Communications, the primary local cable provider, states on its Web site that subscribers are automatically covered and do not have to do anything to prepare for the transition.

The final option is to purchase a new television with a built-in digital tuner.

Televisions purchased prior to 1998 are typically analog. For more information on the digital conversion, visit www.dtvtransition.org.

Families on fixed incomes, seniors, people with disabilities, minorities and people who speak a foreign language will be most affected by the transition, according to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF).

"People who don't have cable, satellite service or a new TV need to order their DTV converter box coupons in the next couple of weeks in order to get their converter boxes in time for Feb. 17th transition," said Wade Henderson, president of the LCCREF. "This transition is about access to life-saving public service announcements. It's about letting communities know when a hurricane is about to strike, a snowstorm threatens a whiteout, that a fire is blazing toward it or that there is a natural or national disaster."

LCCREF is partnering with community organizations to provide assistance to seven cities with at-risk populations, including Atlanta.

DTV Assistance Centers will be hubs for information and technical assistance and will hold training sessions and events to provide help to members of impacted populations.

For more information, visit www.civilrights.org/dtv.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.