Walter Pierce

Digital conversion 'going pretty smoothly' in Lafayette area

by Walter Pierce

Local television stations braced themselves for today’s digital signal conversion, when perhaps thousands of older analog television sets in Acadiana would no longer receive a signal without a digital converter box. But apparently TV viewers in the area heeded the months of warnings from broadcasters and were ready for the switch. Local broadcast affiliates flipped the switch to all digital at 10 a.m. KLPB, the public broadcasting affiliate, made the switch three hours earlier. “It’s been pretty quiet. We’ve had like two phone calls,” says Dixon Lovvorn, an advertising producer at KATC-TV3. The ABC affiliate set up a phone bank manned by engineers and others today to handle calls from dismayed viewers. But so far, so good. KATC event sent a team to a viewer’s home to help set up the converter box and get a signal. “We talked them through it on the phone until it was like, ‘OK, this is going to require going out there and actually fiddling with stuff,” Lovvorn says.

An indication perhaps that KLFY TV10’s viewers trend a little more toward an older demographic, the CBS affiliate’s phone lines were busier this morning. “Total anarchy. We’re thinking of locking the doors,” jokes Chris Cook, KFLY marketing director. In truth, it wasn’t that bad. “We probably got, what, 30, 40 phone calls,” Cook says. “We’re talking them through. Maybe they have something plugged a little funny. Maybe they have to re-scan their TV. We’re just talking them through their menus and helping them re-scan and getting them back on their feet. It’s going pretty smoothly."

The Federal Communications Commission estimates that up to 2 million households are being affected by today’s digital conversion. Some of those affected are procrastinators who failed to purchase a converter box. A smattering are no doubt people so disengaged they didn’t even see this coming, despite the fact that the original date for the conversion was in February — Congress delayed the switch until today — and broadcast networks have been repeatedly urging viewers to be prepared.

The video attached to this story shows my own Magnavox 10-inch analog television reacting to the digital conversion this morning. It was tuned to KLPB at 7 a.m.