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Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: August 30, 2009

Tom Rieland and Carl Higginbotham accept COAAA award for serving local seniors

Tom Rieland and Carl Higginbotham accept COAAA award for serving local seniors

So this is my last mention of the lengthy and sometimes confusing transition from analog to digital television. You’ve made the transition and you’re enjoying three channels of WOSU TV instead of one and perhaps you’ve invested in a HDTV and remain stunned by the quality of that picture. Let’s look back over the past two years and see how WOSU helped Columbus through this switch to digital.
• Coming from a board member suggestion and unique in the country, WOSU started to promote the collection of DTV Converter Coupons to help those most in need (elderly, poor, new immigrants) make the transition to digital over-the-air.

• We collected 3005 coupons donated by the community and worked in partnership with LifeCare Alliance and the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging (COAAA) to distribute and install of boxes and antennas to residents.

• The Columbus Foundation stepped up and funded the initial boxes and antennas to help with the difference between the coupon credit and actual price of the converters.

• WOSU expanded its partnership to the City of Columbus New Americans Initiative and focused on helping the Latino and Somali populations. We partnered with local commercial stations to publicize the transition and provide phone banks to answer questions.

• Columbus was considered one of the most at-risk communities, but as the deadline approached for the cut-off, the number of unready households dropped dramatically due in great part to our efforts. The FCC targeted 50 communities most at risk and Columbus was off the list.

• The FCC was so impressed with our efforts they granted WOSU contracts to provide direct assistance including installation of converter boxes. WOSU’s Dave Carwile and Carl Higginbotham should be recognized as coordinating these efforts, but also our TV Chief Tom Lahr for his commitment to helping anyone who needed it.

• One of our partners, COAAA, awarded WOSU the Outstanding Service to Seniors Award and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting awarded WOSU a national Community Impact Award for our efforts in helping residents with the transition to digital television.

The moments many of us remember best involve some of the home-bound elderly residents in the area who were so thrilled to be reconnected they were moved to tears in thanking us. That’s when you understand the importance of this work. I really couldn’t be more proud of the impact this project had locally and how these efforts brought groups together for a common cause. Perhaps it’s another reason you, our dedicated members, continue to support us so generously. Thank you.