Big changes for television on the horizon

Published 5:23 am Monday, December 1, 2008

By By Jo Bonner
As I am sure many of you know by now, starting Feb. 17, 2009, all television stations must broadcast exclusively in a digital format. This means stations will no longer broadcast in analog and some traditional televisions will no longer work.
The decision to transition to analog was due in large part to the lessons learned in the wake of September 11th and Hurricane Katrina.
First responders must be able to communicate with each other in times of disaster, and switching to digital will free-up bandwidth for use by first responders.
If you use an antenna or “rabbit ears” to watch television - and you do not subscribe to cable, satellite, or any other pay television service - you will need to upgrade to digital television by Feb. 17, 2009, in order to continue to have television reception.
Approximately 85 percent of American households have cable or satellite television service. However, the other 15 percent of households will require a digital converter box.
There are three options to continue your television reception:
A DTV converter box hooks up to your analog television set, and each box is expected to cost between $40 and $70. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is issuing each household up to two $40 coupons to help cover the cost of the converter boxes.
You can apply online for a coupon at
For more information, you can call the Coupon Program 24-hour hotline at 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009) or visit
Holiday Mail for Heroes
This year Walter Reed Army Medical Center has teamed up with the Red Cross and Pitney-Bowes to collect and distribute holiday greeting cards to wounded warriors, as well as other service members, their families and veterans throughout the world.
Last December, the Red Cross’s Service to the Armed Forces staff and volunteers screened, transported and delivered over 600,000 pieces of mail to our service men and women. This year’s goal is for 1 million pieces of mail to be delivered.
If you are interested in participating in this year’s Holiday Mail for Heroes program, you can send your holiday greeting to the following address:
A Service Member
Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5464
Please note that all cards must be postmarked no later than Wednesday, Dec. 10. Cards sent after this date will be returned to sender.
For all of the program guidelines, please visit to ensure your card reaches a service member, veteran, or family member.
You can also visit the above Web site to download and print a free card. Due to the nature of this particular program, phone cards, gift cards and care packages cannot be accepted; however, there are other organizations for these and many other purposes.
Those wishing to send calling cards or gift cards/certificates visit the Army and Air Force Exchange Service at Scroll down to “AAFES Community Connection” and click on “Help Our Troops Call Home” or “Gift Cards/Certificates for Our Troops” in order to send such items.
If you wish to send a care package, go to and click under “Homefront Groups” to find out more information on sending care packages.
Finally, “Operation Hero Miles” ( is a program started by Representative Ruppersberger (D-CA) and members of the airline industry which allows frequent fliers in the United States to donate their accumulated miles to men and women stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The service members can then use these miles to fly home on leave to visit their families, friends, and loved ones.
This list is only a small sampling of the many opportunities available to show our military men and women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the globe that they are remembered during this holiday season.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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