Two Months before Digital TV Transition, Groups Will Open Assistance Centers
Washington, DC – Today, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund (LCCREF) joined the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on a press conference call to announce the opening of DTV Assistance Centers in seven at-risk cities. The call marked the two-months-out countdown to the digital television transition on February 17, 2009.
The government-mandated DTV Transition will require millions of Americans to take action in order to maintain access to free over-the-air television and important emergency announcements. While supplies last, the government is offering two free $40 coupons per household to help cover the cost of digital converter boxes that can keep viewers connected.
Families on fixed incomes, seniors, people with disabilities, people of color, and those who speak languages other than English are most likely to be affected by the transition, and LCCREF is working closely with local organizations to make sure that these vulnerable communities are aware of the DTV Transition and ready for it.
“It is not just about access to entertainment,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. “It’s about access to life-saving public service announcements. It’s about letting communities know when a hurricane is about to strike, a snowstorm threatens a white out, that a fire is blazing toward it, or that there is a natural or national disaster,” he said.
Through a partnership with NTIA and partnerships with community organizations, LCCREF will establish DTV Assistance Centers in each of seven cities with at-risk communities: Atlanta, GA; Detroit, MI; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; Portland, OR; San Antonio, TX; San Francisco- San Jose-Oakland CA; and Seattle-Tacoma, WA.
These seven cities were selected because they have high percentages of the most affected communities, relatively low numbers of NTIA digital convertor box coupon requests and/or redemptions, and relatively high numbers of over-the-air television viewers.
“We are grateful for LCCREF partnering with us to help vulnerable Americans make the transition to digital television,” said Acting NTIA Administrator Meredith Baker. “Combined with the $2.7 million awarded to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, NTIA has now provided $4.35 million to assist seniors, minorities, low-income individuals, people with disabilities, and rural residents with hands-on help to complete the digital transition,” said Baker.
The brick and mortar DTV Assistance Centers will be hubs for information and technical assistance on the transition, trainings, and events to provide DTV-related assistance to members of impacted populations and local community members.
“We’re finding that people who speak languages other than English are often very confused about which box to get, and even if they buy it, who will help them install it?” said Anni Chung, president and CEO of Self Help for the Elderly, a San Francisco, CA group that will be operating a DTV Assistance Center in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Chung’s organization is an example of the kind of local group that LCCREF will be partnering with in each of the seven cities. Self Help for the Elderly has been working with a converter box manufacturer to provide community members with converter boxes at the San Francisco DTV Assistance Center, waiving most shipping and handling costs. The center also offers converter box installation demos and translated instruction manuals.
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, the research and public education arm of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, is committed to the protection and advancement of basic civil and human rights. For more information on LCCR and its nearly 200 member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.