The U.S. switched to digital TV last Friday June 12, and it’s estimated there were around 60,000 unprepared households in the San Francisco Bay Area, including many Chinese and Asian elders, who have larger difficulties preparing for the transition than most. Self Help for the Elderly in San Francisco has a DTV assistance center, and has received more than 100 calls an hour since the transition began, mostly from Chinese-speaking callers.
If you have cable or satellite you didn’t have to worry about the digital transition, unless you had someone speaking an Asian language in your home. While cable in the SF Bay Area has been pretty good about carrying some Asian language stations, it doesn’t carry all, and if you had satellite, it’s likely you didn’t have any Asian programming, without ordering a special second package for Asian language TV.
When my parents moved in with my family, after my dad got ill from cancer in 2005, I was faced with the dilemma of finding ways to bring Chinese language TV into my home. Over the air signals were never particularly satisfactory, especially living in San Jose trying to receive dim signals from San Francisco. So we stuck with cable which provided at least one Chinese language station most hours of the day.
Both my parents have since passed away, and I didn’t really bother with the digital TV transition until this past week, when we decided to buy a new flat screen panel TV with an integrated digital tuner. It happens to be mounted in the one location in the house where I don’t have cable run yet, so I stuck some ordinary rabbit ears on the TV to see what kind of reception I could get from an over-the-air signal. While we can’t receive any of the main broadcast networks, it turned out we get really clear PBS, Spanish language, and Asian language stations. To my surprise, I counted at least 5 different channels of Chinese language programming. If only my parents were still around to enjoy them.