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TV stations preparing for digital switch
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OKLAHOMA CITY — Despite congressional action allowing a four-month delay in the switch to digital-only television, stations in Oklahoma City and Lawton plan to make the changeover as scheduled on Feb. 17.

The situation in Tulsa is less clear.

Officials with Oklahoma City stations KFOR, KWTV, KOCO, KOKH and OETA and Lawton station KSWO said the switch from analog to digital signals will proceed without change.

"Everything's done, we've notified everybody, we've run the ads at our expense that the government required us to," KWTV general manager Rob Krier said.

"They told us a year ago, or two or three, and we've been going full steam ahead to get ready for this and for them to come out a week before, two weeks before, that's even not fair."

The U.S. House voted 264-158 Wednesday to postpone the switch to digital until June 12. The Senate previously approved the bill unanimously and President Barack Obama has said he will sign it.

The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress maintain that the previous administration mismanaged efforts to ensure that all consumers — particularly poor, rural and minority Americans — will be prepared for the switchover.

People who subscribe to cable or satellite TV or have a newer TV with a digital tuner will not be affected. Those with older televisions receiving their signal via antenna will need a converter box to continue to get reception. A government program providing coupons to defray the costs of converters has hit its funding limit.

Krier said, though, that tests in which the station briefly switched to a digital-only signal, leaving analog TVs with no signal, went well and there were few complaints from viewers, leading him to believe most are ready for the change.

One Oklahoma City station, KSBI, said it plans to continue broadcasting both analog and digital signals.

"We are fortunate in that we will be able to continue to operate both in analog and digital through the new cutoff date," Brady Brus, president of Family Broadcasting Group, Inc., said in a statement. "It will be operations as normal for us through June 12."

In Lawton, KSWO general manager Larry Patton said viewers have had plenty of time to prepare.

"They've had two years to get ready is our feeling," he said. "We feel there's always going to be a few people who are going to wake up on the morning of Feb. 17, or June 17, or whenever it is, and not be ready.

"We're willing to get it done."

David Griffin, president and chief executive officer of Griffin Communications, which owns both KWTV in Oklahoma City and KOTV in Tulsa, said he has filed a request to switch both stations to digital transmission on Feb. 17.

But he also said he reserves the right to rescind that request for one or both stations if other broadcast outlets do not convert or if there are signal interference problems.

Steve Foerster, vice president of corporate development for Griffin, said stations could interfere with each other's signal if some move to digital only while others continue with an analog broadcast.

"If we could get all stations in both markets to convert, we believe that would be in the best interest of the public."

Michael Vrabac, vice president and general manager of Tulsa television station KJRH, said stations in that market haven't finalized a date to make the switch.

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