Bloomberg addresses digital switch date

New York stations urge residents to be prepared

NEW YORK -- Even though Congress is being pushed by the Obama administration and consumer advocates to delay the digital TV transition date, New York City's stations and local government aren't taking any chances.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a news conference Monday at City Hall that it didn't matter whether the Feb. 17 deadline would be pushed back or not. The U.S. Senate on Monday passed a bill to delay it by a few months.

"We do know that the conversion to digital will happen eventually, which is either now or in June," Bloomberg said. "The best thing is to be prepared."

Bloomberg said later that he felt that the deadline should stay.

"You'll have exactly the same problem in June as you do today," Bloomberg said. "And it becomes one of those things where the next time you set a date, nobody's going to believe it."

At least 300,000 New Yorkers rely solely on over-the-air broadcast signals to receive TV; many more may have one or more sets that are not ready. One city representative told reporters that it will include a lot of senior citizens, the poor and families that speak Spanish or other languages.

The city has been aggressively working to help residents with the digital conversion, providing outreach efforts through the five bureaus and referring calls to the 311 hotline to people who can answer questions.

Bloomberg was flanked by several of the city's local news anchors, including WABC-'s Bill Ritter, WCBS's Maurice Dubois, WNBC's David Ushery and Fox 5 New York's Ernie Anasatos.

Ritter said that progress was being made, with the number of households unprepared for the change dropping recently 3% to 2.5%.

"We want to leave no viewer behind," Ritter said.

Two anchors at the city's Spanish-language stations, Merijoel Duran of Univision 41 and Jorge Ramos of Telemundo New York, spoke directly to their communities in Spanish. Both said it was very important to them that the city's Spanish-language community make the switch.

Another anchor, WPIX's Jim Watkins, couldn't resist the opportunity to tweak the mayor who recently pushed through legislation allowing him to run for a third term.

"Analog is being term-limited," Watkins said. "And unlike the situation like what we've seen lately, there's nothing anyone can do about it."