Nearly a fifth of the nation's TV stations could switch to digital broadcasts this month -- even if Congress votes today to delay the deadline for making the transition. That would be about 300 of the 1,700 stations affected by the move from analog to digital. About 50 other stations have already made the switch.
The estimates underscore the confusion that's enveloping the transition to digital TV, says Joel Kelsey of Consumers Union, a group that wants the transition slowed. They're expected to get their way, with the U.S. House likely to approve a Senate bill that will push the deadline to June.
The bill allows stations to make the switch, anyway. Scores more will surely make the transition before the June deadline. So changing the date won't stop confusion.
It will allow some stations to continue broadcasting in analog, and that's enough for groups pushing for the delay. Over-the-air TV serves as a lifeline in emergencies such as natural disasters, says Mark Lloyd of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
But can't radio fill in the gaps? I would still argue that delaying digital TV just adds to the confusion. It's likely moot, anyway. President Obama is expected to sign the bill by week's end.