Chris Proffitt/Eyewitness News
Indianapolis - The nation's television stations have turned the channel on viewers.
Early Friday and throughout the day, Channel 13, along with more than 1,700 other full-power TV stations, cut their analog signal, ushering in the digital age that moves broadcasters to clearer pictures on new frequencies. Yet despite a year-long barrage of TV ads instructing viewers that rely on antennas for over-the-air broadcasts, there is still an estimated one million people expected to be stranded without TV service, including up to 35,000 households in central Indiana.
"Their dilemma is that, unfortunately, they're shut out of all news and information. That's a big concern, especially this time of year when we're dealing with storms. There could be natural and national emergencies that they don't have access to," said WTHR President Jim Tellus.
The shutdown of analog channels, originally scheduled for February, was pushed back to June after the government's fund for $40 converter box coupons ran out of money. Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathon Adelstein says the nation is better prepared for the digital conversion now than it was in February.
"It was really disastrous implementation by the previous administration. So it's taken a huge effort. We've done in four months what we should have been doing over the last four years," Adelstein said.
Late Friday morning, one of the city's government-sponsored help centers was under whelmed, receiving only six calls.
"But I think there is a lot of people out there who still have a lot of questions," said Alex Miller, one of the workers at the Digital Help Center.
Primarily, people relying on antennas are having the most difficulty. In some areas, digital signals are harder to receive. A new digital converter box didn't work out, neither did Melanie Wheeldon's new digital TV.
"Not only have I had to buy a new TV, I've had to buy a new antenna now," Wheeldon said. "Very frustrated."
Scores of viewers have called WTHR since their digital programs vanished when the station made yet another digital switch. Channel 13 had been broadcasting two signals - analog and digital. Now that the analog signal is gone, the digital signal moved over to the frequency that had belonged to analog.
"It's going to be a much better signal to see Channel 13," said Tellus.
But to see it, you have to re-scan your TV by grabbing your remote, go to the menu and put the receiver to work.
The televisions that haven't been readied for the switch are a significant concern.
"Especially this time of year, we are dealing with storms and things like that. There could be emergencies that could happen they don't have access to," Tellus said.
(Eyewitness News reporter Rich Van Wyk contributed to this story.)