More than two decades and billions of dollars in the making, the much-anticipated and often-feared switch-over to digital television finally happens Friday -- and most broadcasting and industry analysts say hardly anybody will notice.
''We don't expect much commotion,'' said Marcelo Sanchez, chief of operations at WFOR-CBS 4, who has been coordinating testing and troubleshooting of the digital system among 17 South Florida TV stations that will make the switch. ``The vast majority of TV viewers won't even know it happened.''
The switch -- which will take place at a different hour at each station -- will affect only televisions getting their signal over the air, rather than through a cable system or a satellite dish. These days, that means hardly anybody. Nielsen Media Research estimates that only about 40,000 homes in Dade and Broward counties -- less than 3 percent of those with TVs -- are unprepared for the change.
''Around the country, hundreds of TV stations switched over to digital in February and March, and it was a nonevent,'' said Tom Hazlett, a former Federal Communications Commission economist who teaches law and economics at George Mason University near Washington, D.C. ``The FCC had all these phone banks set up to handle complaints, and they were letting everybody go by noon. The fact is that most people who don't have cable or satellite also don't watch much TV.'' Read my full story in Thursday's Miami Herald. And my Herald colleague Naila Boodoo explains why, if you live in South Florida, you should just forget the whole thing and buy a radio.