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Seniors’ digial TV switch requires government’s financial help: CB 8

Community Board 8 District Manager Marie Adam−Ovide has written letters to Queens’ congressional reps and the two U.S. senators asking the federal government to financially aid seniors and disabled residents who still need to purchase converter boxes for the national switch to digital television.

“And I’m asking the federal government to help seniors and the disabled to hook up the converters,” Adam−Ovide said at the CB 8 meeting Jan. 14. “Hooking this up may seem easy to many people, but it’s not for seniors and the disabled.”

Converter boxes cost between $40 and $70, which can be difficult for residents living on fixed incomes to afford, Adam−Ovide said. Though the federal government is supposed to provide households with up to two $40 coupons toward the purchase of these boxes, residents throughout the country have not been able to secure the federal aid.

According to a release issued by President Barack Obama’s transition team, more than 2 million people in the United States are on a waiting list for the coupons. WABC President and General Manager Rebecca Campbell said there are about 250,000 viewers in the New York City area not ready for the switch. Many of those unprepared for the switch are seniors, Campbell said.

Television stations are scheduled to switch their broadcast signal from analog to digital on Feb. 15. Congress passed a bill in 2005 mandating the switch.

Residents with television sets bought after 2006 and anyone who subscribes to cable and satellite do not have to make any changes, but non−cable customers and those with older sets have to buy converter boxes in order to watch any TV stations.

Obama has urged Congress to pass a bill delaying the transition by three months.

— Anna Gustafson

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