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Bloomberg Says NYC Ready To Help Viewers With DTV Transition

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday that the city was ready to help viewers make the switch from analog to digital, and suggested he would be just as happy if the broadcasters made that switch Feb. 17 rather than delay the date until June 12, as many congressional Democrats and even some Republicans are supporting.

Bloomberg said there are still a number of people who don't know about or aren't prepared despite station education efforts, but said "all change is painful. Whether it's now or in June, you're going to have a problem." Mayor Bloomberg said that it has always been his belief that "government needs to be consistent." He speculated that if the date moves consumers may not believe the new date will be a firm one. "At some point you have to set a date and you have to stick to the date."

At a press conference Monday, first reported by B&C, Bloomberg said that while the overwhelming majority of New York households subscribe to cable or satellite service, there are 300,000 over-the-air-only viewers in New York who may not be ready to make the switch because they don't have a converter box hooked up or a digital TV. Bloomberg was joined by news anchors from the city's major TV stations, each of which spoke briefly about their station's DTV education efforts.

He said that the city's 311 information line, 311 will be prepared to answer questions about obtaining DTV-to-analog converter-box coupons and point them to resources for setting up digital converter boxes. "If you call 311, we will connect you with someone who will help you get the right equipment."

WABC TV anchor Bill Ritter said at the press conference that he sometimes feels like stations are educating "one viewer at a time," adding that "we want to leave no viewer behind," in the DTV transition.