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CBA Changes Course on Converter Boxes

The group representing low-power TV stations, the majority of which won't be switching to digital in February 2009, said it began advising its viewers to buy any kind of DTV-to-analog converter box, not just the ones that will allow them to still see analog signals after the switch.

Citing a lack of converter boxes with the analog pass-through feature and the looming expiration date for some early adopters' subsidy coupons for the boxes, the Community Broadcasters Association is advising the viewers to buy the boxes, leave them unopened, then exchange them for analog pass-through boxes when they become more readily available.

The CBA had been telling viewers that they needed to buy the analog-enabled boxes.

"The CBA recognizes the challenges this recommendation will create for both manufacturers and retailers and regrets any inconvenience this may cause," the trade group said Friday in announcing the change in strategy. "However, we feel that the true purpose of the NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] coupon program is to serve the needs of the over-the-air television viewers across the country and that their convenience and satisfaction are of the utmost importance."

The CBA put the blame on the NTIA, which is administering the coupon program, saying that it was the agency's " inability to contend with the challenges created by the expiration of converter-box coupons and inadequate supply and availability of analog pass-through converter boxes."

An NTIA spokesman had no comment, but the NTIA has, under pressure from some in Congress, looked into extending the coupons, although the issue has not yet been resolved and centers on the congressionally designated funding available to make such a change.