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Chinese Elders Rush for Help as TV Goes Digital

New America Media/Our Weekly , News Report, Vivian Po Posted: Jun 13, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO-- As the United States switched to digital TV on June 12, there were still 50,000 to 60,000 unprepared households in the Bay Area rushing for help, including Chinese elders, many of whom face lots of difficulties preparing for the transition.

In the DTV Assistance Center at Self-Help for the Elderlys main office in San Francisco, phones ring almost every 20 seconds. Callers, mostly Chinese-speaking, ask what to do to continue to watch TV after the transition.

All full-power television switched from broadcasting in analog to digital after June 12, itself a four month postponement from the original February 17 deadline.

We are receiving more than 100 calls per hour today, said Annie Chung, President and CEO of Self-Help for the Elderly, People are coming for help at the very last-minute, but we are prepared.

Digital TVSelf Help for the Elderly staff demonstrate
how to install converter boxes.
Self-Help opened its DTV Assistance Hotline till 1am on Thursday and has extended its main office working hours to 9pm from Friday to Sunday. They provide assistance in getting DTV converter boxes installed at home.

Apart from language barriers, Chinese elders find the whole process quite hard to understand, said Chung, Thats why we provide a one-stop service, from coupon application to in-home installation.

Self-Help is also partnering with one of the converter box manufacturers, so elders can buy the box through Self-Help for only five dollars (for tax and handling fee), plus the 40-dollar coupon sponsored by the US Department of Commerce after applying online.

At Self-Helps main office located next to Chinatown, there was a stream of Chinese elders bringing their coupons to purchase the converter boxes on the last day before the transition.

I almost forgot its today! Luckily one of my friend reminded me, so I rushed here to get my box! said OuYang Cai Mei, a 70-year-old Chinese lady who lives by herself. She hoped that her neighbors would be free to install the box for her before the transition.

If not, OuYang said, I will join my neighbors at their home to watch TV for the next few days.

Digital TV Transition70-year-old OuYang Cai Mei got her converter box on the last day.
Like most of the low-income Chinese elders in the Bay Area, free TV is the only source of information and entertainment for OuYang. I dont know enough words to read the newspaper, but TV, I can at least watch and listen.

Chung believes Self-Help have enough supply for converter boxes, over thousands in stock.

However, some electronic stores actually ran out of stock of converter boxes. We ran out of stock over the weekend, said Chen, a worker at Inter Pacific electronic store on Clement Street. Lots of people came and bought converter in February, not as many this time, though a few came to ask this morning.

After the transition, households without high definition TV sets and paid television services, need to install a digital-to-analog converter box to their old TV set in order to watch digital channels, which provide better image and sound qualities.

Self-Help started their DTV outreach as early as December 2008. They assisted over 15,000 people over the six-month period.

The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the transition project, reminds the public to re-scan the channels after the transition because many TV stations are changing channels.

For more information, visit DTV or DTV2009.

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