Statement of Nancy Zirkin, Vice President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Media 03.1.07

“The switch from analog to digital television in 2009 means that some 70 million sets will go dark – and the viewers of those sets, many disproportionately the elderly, the poor and the disadvantaged – may find themselves in the dark as well.

Through no fault of their own, some 20 million viewers who don’t subscribe to cable or a satellite service — people like your great aunt, your grandmother, poor kids – will automatically be cut out of the great communications medium of the 20th century.

Like some science fiction nightmare, the news they watch, the programs that keep them company and let them know what is happening in the world and down the block, will, poof!, disappear.

This is not simply a matter of not having the latest gizmo, gadget or big screen, their television sets just will not work. 

Unlike the advent of electricity which spread gradually while people continued to rely on candles and lanterns, the switch to DTV is a tectonic shift in technology. What was is no longer.

People who depended on free, over-the-air TV simply won’t have access to it.  And for those living on fixed incomes and tight budgets, buying a new television is a luxury, not an amenity.  They simply do not have that option.

That’s why the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of nearly 200 diverse civil rights organizations, has joined industry, broadcasters, manufacturers, interest groups and federal officials to make sure that this audience knows before the switch that they are eligible for federal vouchers.  The vouchers can be used to purchase a converter box that will let their current TV receive the new digital signals.”