Hawaii Going Digital January 15

Hawaii Association of Broadcasters sets DTV transition a month earlier than the rest of the country to deconstruct anaolog facilities in time for petrel breeding season

The Hawaiian Association of Broadcasters has made it official.

The state is going digital on Jan. 15, 2009 rather than the national Feb. 17.

According to the association, the early analog shut-off was prompted by conversations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which advised them to "deconstruct" their analog facilities early to avoid the Hawaiian petrel breeding season on Maui.

The association said a Web site has been set up to help viewers, but also said that, so far, the take-up rate in Hawaii for DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program has been "relatively low."

Nielsen Wednesday reported that over 9 million households are currently unready for the DTV transition, which means they do not have cable, satellite, a DTV set, or a converter box.

While Feb. 17 is the cut-off date, broadcasters are allowed by the FCC to switch to digital up to 90 days before that date so long as they inform their viewers. Wilmington, NC, has already switched early in a test with the FCC, but other stations are making the switch early as well, particularly in states with hard winters where a February technical switch would be infeasible.

The association says the early move has the support of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who is among those legislators concerned about education efforts and antenna issues surrounding the transition.