About 62 percent of over-the-air consumers (roughly 14.5 million) who are aware of the upcoming digital transition would rather receive free digital TV, via a converter box or digital TV set, than pay for TV services, according to an Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) survey.

Those consumers indicated that they would buy a converter box or digital TV set between now and when the transition takes effect on Feb. 17, 2009, compared with the 10 percent who would opt for cable, satellite or telecommunications service to receive digital TV. In November 2006, only 28 percent of consumers said that they would buy a converter box or digital TV set.

In January, the converter box coupon program – which is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) – officially launched. As of March 19, the NTIA had reportedly received requests for 8.1 million coupons from 4.3 million households.

Consumer awareness of the transition has increased to 76.4 percent, as of February, compared with 51 percent in November, according to the APTS. And 55 percent, or 23 million, of these households correctly identified the year when the transition will occur.

“It’s estimated that there are nine million over-the-air households in America that know about the transition and say they want to continue to receive free television,” said APTS acting President and CEO Mark Erstling.

“The wishes of these households, which encompass nearly 26 million people, can’t be ignored. We must ensure that these consumers know how to install converter boxes and have the proper antenna equipment to receive adequate digital signals.”

But according to the APTS, 17.5 percent of over-the-air consumers who are aware of the digital transition don’t know what they will do, and about 10 percent said that they would do nothing. Additionally, 75 percent of American households that are aware of the transition do not understand why it is taking place; this is an increase from 58 percent six months ago.

The perception of how the government is handling the transition has slightly improved since November, the APTS said. About one-fourth of Americans think that the government is on the right track, compared with 17 percent six months ago.

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