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Study: 39 Percent of Households Using Analog Sets

Jun 29, 2005  •  Post A Comment

About 39 percent of TV viewing households rely on analog TV sets that will go dark without a digital-to-analog converter after the broadcast industry’s switch to digital, according to a study released Wednesday in Washington by the Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America.

In a teleconference, representatives of the groups said they conducted the study because a recent survey by the Consumer Electronics Association claimed that only 33 million sets are being used to receive analog signals over the air, while one cited by the National Association of Broadcasters put the figure at 73 million. The Consumers Union/Consumer Federation study placed the number at 80 million.

The actual number is critical to the industry and consumers because lawmakers are currently using estimates to calculate what a federal converter subsidy would cost if attached to legislation to expedite the transition.

The bottom line, said Mark Cooper, Consumer Federation of America research director: “The CEA number, at 33 million, is way too low.” Representatives of the watchdog groups said that at $50 per converter, the cost to consumers of the transition will exceed $3.5 billion.

“This is an enormous consumer nightmare,” said Gene Kimmelman, Consumers Union policy director.

In a statement, CEA said the consumer groups didn’t ask how many sets in U.S. households rely solely on an antenna to receive TV programming, thereby failing to account for what CEA claims are at least 31 million sets that are used exclusively for video games, DVDs and other purposes.

“CEA stands firmly by our survey and the data we have presented to Congress,” said Michael Petricone, CEA’s VP of technology.

In a statement, NAB said the number of sets reported by the consumer groups exceed those found by broadcasters and Congress’s Government Accountability Office. “We’re pleased the Consumers Union/Consumer Federation of America survey reinforces the findings of both the NAB and the GAO,” said Eddie Fritts, NAB president and CEO. “We expect Congress will pass a DTV bill this year with a hard date for turning off analog television with minimal consumer disruption.”