June 19th, 2009
07:31 AM ET

Battery-powered TVs useless this storm season

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/06/13/digital.TV/art.analog.tv.gi.jpg caption="Without a converter box, satellite service or cable hook-up, analog TVs only deliver static now."]

Mary Tuma
For the Houston Chronicle

Without power for 12 days during Hurricane Ike, Houston secretary Donna Clanton relied on her battery-powered TV for news updates, road closings and notices of flooded intersections.

“Actually seeing what was happening made me feel more connected and a little less isolated,” Clanton said.

But portable sets, which played an instrumental role in connecting Houstonians to the outside world during Ike’s lengthy power outages, are now useless, thanks to the digital conversion.

Though Americans were given four extra months to prepare for the nationwide switch from analog to digital signals, the conversion date last week coincided with the advent of this year’s hurricane season, creating challenges for those like Clanton, who depend on battery-operated sets during emergencies

Because digital converter boxes are plugged into the wall, on-the-go analog TV sets won’t function during a blackout. The audio from analog TV broadcasts received on radios are now tuned out, as well.

In September, former Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin warned of a possible shortage of battery-operated digital TV equipment and called on groups such as the Consumer Electronic Association to encourage their availability.


Filed under: Hurricanes • Technology
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Dan M.

    If you can buy a digital portable TV for $50 as Jim pointed out, it's too bad that we can't use the $40 coupon from the FCC to buy that instead of a converter box.

    June 19, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  2. MaryBeth

    Just a comment:
    The cost of the conversion (convertor boxes, special high powered antennas, special cable wires, etc.) seem to hit those of us who were too poor to have cable in the first place!

    June 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  3. blaksmith

    Rural people probably will be fine. They have satellites out of necessity. Urban older people likely will b at risk. Fixed incomes make no room for cable or satellites. Low skill workers can't do it on minimum wage jobs.

    June 19, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  4. MikeO

    To the user who commented on stations reverting to analog. They can't. Because the frequencies are now being assigned for use by other people including, in some cases, emergency services and cell phones. Reverting to analog isn't an option.

    June 19, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  5. Jim

    There are digital battery powered tv sets already available..if NOT the second best is a gerry-mandered, 12v car battery, a low cost INVERTER and you have your 110 to run a tv....all for about $50

    June 19, 2009 at 11:39 am |
  6. Niisa Lawrence

    Get a commercial generator to plug in your TV, DVD, and Stero coupled with wireless internet we should be good to go! Now if I can only set up my fax I could send out an SOS... lol and use caution this season

    June 19, 2009 at 11:15 am |
  7. bonnie nowitzke

    Just a comment; i git rid of the cable tv. so analog is a good idea?

    June 19, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  8. Niisa Lawrence

    You are amazing... I like Erica as well, but you are amazing!!

    June 19, 2009 at 11:03 am |
  9. Duane

    Hopefully stations will revert back to analog in emergency situations. Here in New Orleans a few news programs have already announced that in an emergency with terrible weather they will broadcast in analog because they know people will be without power. Hopefully, other places will follow suit before the only people left uninformed are those who can't afford the battery operated equipment to add to their existing televisions.

    June 19, 2009 at 10:57 am |