Digital TV transition delay doesn’t address signal issues

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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The announcement that the digital TV transition has been postponed from Feb. 17 to June 12 has some residents breathing a sigh of relief, but others say it doesn’t solve some basic issues. The Federal Communications Commission has left it up to individual broadcasting stations when they’ll make the switch, but locally, KCRA, KQCA, Fox 40, News10 and KOVR-13 will hold off until June 12, according to information on their Web sites. Thomas Vonhurrall, a Gold Run resident, said the only way he can watch TV is in analog mode, so the four-month transition delay was a bit of good news. “It’s a relief in the fact that at least I’ll be able to get the news and my political programs and PBS,”’ he said. “But after June, it’s going to go off.” Vonhurrall has had mixed results trying to bring in a digital signal. “It’s random, it all depends on the atmospherics,” he said. “You can’t pick anything up today (Wednesday) because it’s overcast. If it is snowing, it depresses the signal. If it is raining, it depresses the signal. If it is windy, it depresses the signal.” At Wooden Ship Stereo in Auburn, owner Ray Avalos has been monitoring the changeover for more than a year. The delay does not address the issue of signal strength, he said. “The guaranteed threshold of where the signal will reach is in front of the foothills, below Newcastle and in front of Auburn,” he said Wednesday. “So anything above that is questionable.” Avalos, who lives at 2,000-foot elevation in the foothills, is able to bring in digital reception through his 50-year-old UHF antenna connected to the converter box, but it takes some work. “I have to use a rotor to redirect my antenna at least two or three times an evening to hold onto a local TV signal,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Most elderly people in the foothills living in mobile home parks (and elsewhere) will not have the funds or the temperament to handle what I play with every day. I believe that a lot of people’s TVs are going to go dark next (June).” Like all signals, it is influenced by terrain and atmosphere, he said. “I can actually get San Francisco more consistently than Sacramento,” he said For those who won’t be able to bring in digital reception, the only choice may be subscribing to cable or satellite service, an unlikely possibility for those on a fixed income. Avalos, who is also a local Dish Network representative, said the Dish family plan costs approximately $32 per month. Direct TV’s Web site lists a basic plan for $29.99 plus tax. Wave Broadband’s basic cable service is $23.95 a month plus tax, according to marketing director Adam Lazara. Subscribers to satellite or cable don’t need an antenna or converter box for regular TV programming, Lazara said. Anyone who hasn’t applied for a discount coupon to purchase the analog-to-digital converter box will be put on a waiting list. Requests made after Jan. 3 are in pending status until the federal government approves more funding for the program, according to The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at or comment at