Analog TV Conversion: The Law Few Want To Think About…Yet

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Analog TV Conversion: The Law Few Want To Think About…Yet

Wed Nov 14, 2007 @ 12:33PM PST

Posted by Eriq Gardner

Tvset Columbia University law professor Tim Wu got a big laugh recently at the 2007 New Yorker Conference when he told the audience: “February 2009, if you own a television set and you don’t have cable and satellite, it will go blank that day.”

As countless stories appear in newspapers and magazines examining how the WGA strike threatens to take popular television sitcoms and dramas off the air, few seem concerned with the telecommunications act that could silence television altogether for nearly 30 million viewers. On February 19, 2009, thanks to a law passed by Congress last year, television stations will no longer be allowed to broadcast in analog. That means if you don’t have a digital television, say goodbye to “House,” “The Simpsons” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

U.S. broadcasters are promising to air more than $327 million in ads in the coming year to educate consumers about the switch. Legislators in Congress are currently debating whether to subsidize the cost for consumers to buy a digital-analog converter box.

Perhaps consumers will use the new law as an excuse to put the remote control to rest and finally read “Anna Karenina.” Fat chance? Consider a new study by the Consumer Electronics Association that says that 22% of analog TV owners say they plan to "do nothing" when the nation switches to Digital TV.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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