Thousands of TVs go blank after Mexican city makes digital broadcasting switch

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 16:14 EDT
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A view of a shantytown in Tijuana, Mexico January 27, 2006. (AFP)
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Mexicans love their televisions and telenovelas, so when thousands of TVs went blank after the city of Tijuana switched from analog to digital broadcasting, some people got off their couches to protest.

The Pacific coast city, which lies at the border with California, went fully digital late Tuesday but 14,000 homes had yet to get the converter boxes needed to continue watching broadcast channels.

Deprived of their TVs, dozens of people protested in front of city hall.

“I was watching television with my son and it stopped working. The signal disappeared and I don’t have the money to buy one of those new antennas, I wasn’t given one,” said Adela Lopez, one of the protesters.

Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante held a press conference to address the uproar, saying he would ask President Enrique Pena Nieto to reverse course and do the switch another time.

“I thought that this would be done in orderly fashion and apparently that didn’t happen,” Bustamante said.

Some 500 people signed up to a lawsuit that was filed in court on Tuesday so that they could get their TV signals again, said the lawyer for the group, Luis Miguel Krasovsky.

“We weren’t ready (for the switch) and we predicted what happened,” he told Milenio television.

The Federal Telecommunications Commission (Cofetel) distributed 192,000 decoders in Tijuana, a city of 1.5 million people.

The head of Cofetel’s television division, Luis Fernando Borjon Figueroa, said 14,000 families were left with blank screens, or 6.9 percent of households. He warned that there would be “no going backwards” in the system.

Mexicans watch an average of four hours of television per day and leave it on for about eight hours, mostly in low-income households, according to ratings tracker Ibope AGB.

The Mexican government plans to completely phase out analog television across the nation by 2015 — one year after the World Cup, a major television event in this football-mad nation.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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