[TAG] TV, digital, converter, broadcast [/TAG]

The nation’s broadcasters on Feb. 17, 2009 will be turning off their analog over-the-air broadcasts. Cable and satellite TV providers said they will ensure their subscribers continue to view programming after the switch.

Starting Jan. 1, an estimated 13 million to 21 million households that rely on an antenna to watch TV can contact the government to receive two coupons worth $40 each to buy converter boxes which will enable them to view digital television signals.

The $1.5 billion program – which is enough to fund 33.5 million coupons – ends March 31, 2009.

Retailers such as Wal-Mart will begin selling the devices, which translate the digital signal for such TV sets, in mid February.

However, Congress has criticized the government for not having a comprehensive plan to ensure a smooth transition to digital TV.