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This article is from the In-Depth Report Science and the Obama Administration

Will DTV transition be delayed?

Lovers of analog TV may get a reprieve from the scheduled February 18 transition to digital television. President-elect Barack Obama wants to delay next month's nationwide transition, arguing that there isn’t enough money to back the program.

As of now, February 17 is the last day that broadcasters will be allowed to transmit analog signals. But Congress, which signed off on the switch to DTV four years ago, has temporarily run out of coupons for people to buy discounted converter boxes that translate digital signal transmissions to analog sets, according to The New York Times. Nearly 19 million of the coupons have been redeemed, but more than one million more requests are on hold. (The coupons are for $40, and basic converters cost about $50, the Times notes.)

And hundreds of thousands more requests daily are expected as the deadline fast approaches, John Podesta, who's heading up Obama's transition team, said in a letter to congressional leaders urging them to delay the move. As of last month, 7.8 million households, or 6.8 percent of those with TVs, hadn’t upgraded their sets, Nielsen Media Research estimated, according to the Times.

NBC Universal and News Corp., which could lose viewers if people don’t have converter boxes, support a delay. Rep. Edward Markey (D–Mass), outgoing chair of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, also says Congress should consider putting off the transition, according to Ars Technica.

But Business Week notes that a delay may rankle wireless providers who plan to use freed-up sections of the airwaves for advanced services such as mobile video.

Here's one Scientific American editor's recipe for receiving HDTV over the air.

Image © iStockphoto/Matjaz Boncina

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