In February, traditional analog television signals will cease to exist. While Americans with cable or satellite television will be unaffected, those who receive their television signals via old-fashioned rabbit-ears will be out of luck. To continue watching television, they will have to purchase a converter box at their local electronics retailer or subscribe to a more expensive cable or satellite service.
This move threatens to ignite a new digital divide. Already, the elderly and low-income Americans are less connected to the Internet. These same individuals are least likely to be aware of the upcoming digital transition or have the resources to become educated about it. According to the Washington Post:
“The digital conversion presents a huge logistical and technical hurdle for the communities whose dependence on rabbit-ear-style analog TVs are high, but whose understanding of how to manage the change is low.
Many of the older TVs belong to seniors and low-income individuals. [People in these groups] are also [the ones who rely most] on their TVs for critical information such as news reports and public-service alerts. In nursing homes and retirement communities, where many sets need antennas to pick up signals, TVs could flicker out.”
For decades, health communicators have relied on television to reach all segments of American society – especially the elderly or those with low incomes. Now, the upcoming transition threatens to reduce the effectiveness of this tried and true communications channel.
Of course, there other means of reaching these groups. For example, posting health messages on bus shelters is always an excellent strategy, as many depend on public transportation. However, the upcoming digital transition will make it a bit harder to reach all Americans via television. Health communicators and promotions experts will have to account for these shifts in technology and figure out how to adjust to them.