Elon students prepare for their role in statewide DTV test

About 25 students gathered Jan. 12 for training in preparation for this week's digital television transition test in North Carolina. The Elon students will staff the statewide hotline phone bank which will be headquartered in the TV studio at Elon's School of Communications.

Associate Dean Connie Book, who is organizing the effort, was joined by a representative from the Federal Communications Commission along with TV station engineers and other broadcast professions for the training session. They explained the types of questions students will receive when TV stations across the state conduct a “soft test” of the digital television transition on Thursday Jan. 15.

Programs that evening will be briefly interrupted to give viewers messages about the upcoming national DTV transition on Feb. 17. People who have analog-only televisions and receive their signals over the air must buy and install converter boxes prior to that date.

During the “soft test”, stations will broadcast a toll-free number for viewers to call when they have questions related to the change. The first five-minute test takes place at 6:25 p.m. A two-minute test is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. In both instances, broadcasters throughout the state will halt analog programming with a message for viewers alerting them to the DTV transition. Elon students will be ready to assist people who are having problems with their reception or converter boxes, or who have other questions. 

Connie Book, associate dean, Elon University School of Communications

Twenty-five telephone stations have been set up in the TV studio, through the work of Elon’s technology personnel. Students will use laptop computers and have extensive manuals so they can respond to the wide variety of questions that are anticipated. They will also have popular brands of converter boxes available so they can walk viewers through the process of hooking up the boxes to their television sets.

Elon students will also staff the hotline when the full transition takes place Feb. 17, unless Congress decides to delay the DTV transition as suggested by President-Elect Barack Obama.