Nearly six million US citizens with digital receivers may still lose TV signals when digital-only broadcasts begin next February, according to a study by research firm Centris. Centris found gaps in broadcast signals that may leave an estimated 5.9 million TV sets unable to receive as many channels as they did before the changeover. To keep broadcast reception, many viewers may have to buy new outdoor antennas, the study found.
The Centris study predicts greater disruption of service than the Federal Communications Commission have acknowledged. The federal government estimates that 21 million American households have primary TV sets that receive only over-the-air signals. But it says most will continue to get a digital signal by means of a digital-to-analogue converter box, which costs about $50 to $70. Centris said it looked at a more detailed method for predicting the coverage pattern of TV signals than the government had used.
However, the problems with reception could be far worse, according to some engineers. One study of the first HDTV station by Oded Bendov, the consultant hired to replace the broadcast antennas on the Empire State Building, found that digital signals did not travel as far as either model had predicted. “For the people with rabbit-ear antennas, I would say at least 50 percent won't get the channels they were getting,” Bendov said. “I would say a lot of people are going to be very unhappy.”