For those in the Alamo City who haven't upgraded their old television sets for the nation's impending switch to digital-only broadcasting, community organizers and officials on Saturday delivered an important message: With only six days left, there's still help available.
Mayor Julián Castro and others spoke in the William C. Velásquez Institute on the West Side, one of three assistance centers that a national civil rights group opened in San Antonio this year to help ensure people have operable TVs when analog broadcasting ends Friday.
As volunteers helped people sign up to receive $40 coupons for digital converter boxes and construct operable antennas out of wire and foil, Castro warned that thousands in San Antonio rely on their televisions for crucial information about natural disasters and other emergencies.
“Their sets will go blank; they'll turn to snow if they don't get the new converter boxes,” he said. “This is an important way to ensure there is not an information gap in our community.”
The planned switch is intended to free up airwaves for first responders to emergencies, officials said.
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund identified San Antonio last year as one of seven communities most “at-risk” in the digital transition, an initiative that's likely to affect minorities, people with disabilities, fixed-income families and older residents the most.
“Right now, what we're getting are the older Mexican American people, Spanish-speaking, who can't read or write,” said Imelda Morales, an organizer. “A lot of time, (television is) their only communication to the outside world. They need their TV.”
Consumers can apply for the coupons online at www.DTV2009.gov; by phone at (888) 388-2009; via fax to (877) 388-4632; or by mail to P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000.
For free installation of a converter box, call (866) 999-3435 or (830) 393-7888