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PR- 041-09
January 26, 2009


311 to Continue to Serve As City's Point of Contact to Help New Yorkers Prepare and Agencies, Including Information Technology and Telecommunications, Aging, Consumer Affairs, Film Theater and Television and the Community Affairs Unit, to Continue Outreach Efforts

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert C. Lieber today joined New York City area television news anchors to discuss how New Yorkers can prepare for the nationwide conversion to digital television and how City government can help. Although the possibility of extending the conversion date continues to be debated by Congress, the federally-mandated transition to digital broadcasting, which will replace existing analog television signals, is currently set to occur on February 17, 2009. While the majority of New Yorkers use cable or satellite television providers and will not be affected, approximately 300,000 New York City households receive television signals exclusively over-the-air. City offices and agencies are reaching out to New Yorkers that may be affected by the conversion and are helping them prepare for it. The Mayor was joined for the announcement in the Blue Room of City Hall by Council Member Gale A. Brewer, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Paul J. Cosgrave, Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan B. Mintz, Community Affairs Unit Commissioner Nazli Parvizi, Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting Commissioner Katherine Oliver, Department for the Aging  Acting Commissioner Sally J. Renfro, WCBS-TV's Maurice DuBois, WNBC-TV's David Ushery, Fox 5's Ernie Anastos, WABC-TV's Bill Ritter, WWOR-TV's Brenda Blackmon, WPIX-TV's Jim Watkins, WXTV Noticias' Merijoel Duran, WNJU Telemundo's Jorge Ramos and Metropolitan Television Alliance President Saul Shapiro.

"Although most New Yorkers do not have to do anything to prepare for the national conversion to Digital Television because they subscribe to cable or satellite services, about 300,000 New York City households receive television signals over the air and may have older TVs that cannot accommodate a digital broadcast," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We want to make sure they know what they can do to prepare for the federally-mandated transition to Digital Television, which is set to happen in three weeks on February 17. Whether or not the deadline is extended, the conversion to digital will happen eventually, and the best thing we can do is to be prepared. City agencies have been reaching out to New Yorkers that may be affected, and 311 is ready to answer questions about the conversion. To learn what you need to do to prepare, or for help determining whether or not you will be affected, just call 311."

"The nationwide conversion to Digital Television will mean a clearer picture and more channels, but some New Yorkers have to take steps to prepare for it and we want to make sure they know what is needed" said Deputy Mayor Lieber. "When the transition occurs, New Yorkers with older TVs and without cable or satellite subscriptions will have to have upgraded their TVs, subscribed to a cable or satellite service, or purchased a converter box. City agencies are reaching out to New Yorkers that may be affected, and 311 is ready to answer questions and connect people to the federal helpline."

"Through numerous community events, forums, and a hearing held by the Council Technology in Government Committee, we have worked to make sure that New Yorkers are prepared for the digital television transition," said Council Member Brewer. "Many of the households requesting coupons for converter boxes are low income, seniors, and primarily speak a language other than English. I look forward to working with the Mayor and other government entities to address this problem."

In 2005, Congress passed a law that requires all television broadcast stations to convert to digital broadcasting by February 17, 2009. Digital broadcasting provides a clearer picture and more programming options, and it will free up airwaves for use by emergency services, such as our police and fire departments. The conversion affects television viewers because many older television sets are unable to display Digital Television. Those who have older televisions and do not currently subscribe to pay TV services - such as cable or satellite - may not be able to get reception on their television sets after the conversion.

The alternative to subscribing to a cable or satellite service or upgrading the television is to install a converter box that will change a digital signal to an analog one. Converter boxes can be purchased at many electronics stores throughout the City, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is administering a coupon program to help offset costs for Americans who need to buy the digital converter boxes by offering each household up to two $40 coupons to be used toward the purchase of digital converter boxes. The coupons are good for 90 days. Presently, NTIA has exhausted funding for the coupons and are awaiting approval for additional funding, but they are still accepting and approving coupon applications. Coupon orders are being filled as thousands of issued coupons expire each week and are then recycled back into the program. New Yorkers should call 311 to be transferred to the NTIA helpline, or they can call it directly at 888-DTV-2009.

Several City agencies have been working to help prepare New Yorkers for the transition.

The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications has educated 311 call takers on how to answer questions about digital television and has set up a direct transfer to the federal helpline. The agency continues to post updates and reminders about the digital conversion on the City's homepage at, and on NYC TV  television channels.

The City's Community Affairs Unit has distributed information to Community Boards throughout the City and is helping coordinate public forums in different neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs.

The Department for the Aging has been working with senior centers, case management agencies, and groups like Meals-on-Wheels to alert seniors to the digital transition.

The Mayor's Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting has included information on the Digital Television and the conversion on its website and in their monthly electronic newsletters that go out to more than 17,000 subscribers.

Finally, the Department of Consumer Affairs has also played an active role - in both enforcement and public outreach. Federal law now requires retailers to notify shoppers when they buy televisions that will require additional equipment to work after the Digital Television transition, and last year, the Department of Consumer Affairs conducted a sweep of New York City electronics stores to make sure they were complying with the law. The agency has also mailed out "DTV Tips" to nearly 7,000 businesses and consumers.


Stu Loeser/Andrew Brent   (212) 788-2958

Nick Sbordone   (Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications)
(212) 788-6602

Pat Smith (Rubenstein for Metropolitan Television Alliance)   (212) 843-8026

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