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WASHINGTON, DC (CAP) - President-elect Barack Obama's transition team is recommending a delay in the long-planned conversion from analog to digital TV signals, now that technicians have discovered a glitch in the technology that keeps the signals from broadcasting Lifetime: Television For Women and several other channels.
"It was the last thing we'd have anticipated, so frankly we didn't even think to check for it," said Federal Communications Commission head Michael Copps. "You're flipping along the channels, and just when you expect to get Baby For Sale starring Dana Delany, pffft, nothing."
And in some extreme cases, the FCC has found, instead of Lifetime viewers actually get a high-pitched squeal that they have described as "blood curdling."
This is only the latest in a series of setbacks for the conversion. Recently, the Commerce Department ran out of money for coupons to subsidize the digital converter boxes required for people still using "rabbit ears" antennas to pick up the new digital signals.
"I know I can't afford to buy me one of those things on my own," said Roseanne Minsky of Sulphur Rock, Ark., who said she only recently heard about the conversion and is quite upset about it.
"I like my rabbit ears!" said Minsky. "I have my boys take turns holding them in different areas of the house depending on what time of day it is. What are they gonna do with themselves once that's over?"
As legislators try to free up funds for more converter boxes, the FCC is trying to address the latest problem, which in addition to Lifetime is affecting at least three other channels: HGTV, Hallmark and Logo.
"I need my Logo desperately," said Marc Hurwitz, who founded a Facebook group dedicated to the cable channel, which is aimed at a gay and lesbian audience. "If you take away Logo and Lifetime, you might as well just cancel Bravo as well, and then shoot me in the head."
"We do consider this situation to be most unfortunate and very much of concern," said Darlene Fortenski of Mothers Against Everything (MAE), who noted that Lifetime's core demographic - primarily homebound mothers ages 29-49, many of them depressed and anxious - also make up the majority of her group's membership.
"A channel like Lifetime provides just the release we need," she said. "After a hard day of helping our children make better choices, nothing relieves stress like a She's Too Young with Marcia Gay Harden, a Mom At Sixteen starring Jane Krakowski or an I Do (But I Don't) with Denise Richards and Dean Cain."
At the mention of Cain's name, Fortenski closed her eyes and let out what might be described as an almost silent moan.
The FCC's Copp is hoping the problems can be resolved by the Feb. 17 deadline, but he admits that FCC technicians are stumped. "Why just Lifetime, HGTV, Hallmark and Logo? It's bizarre," he admits. "It's almost as if the signals have good taste."
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