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June 11, 2009

Cowboy John, Black Bart to pull the plug on TV era

Local TV legends John Nance Garner and John Stevens, known Channel 4 kiddie TV hosts Cowboy John and Black Bart, will pull the plug on a TV era Friday.

KBTV-TV Fox 4 will join the nation’s broadcasters in making the official switch to digital TV with a ceremony to begin at 9 p.m. Friday, June 12, Chris Pruitt, vice president and general manager of the station, told Rotary Club of Port Arthur members.

After the pair switch off transmitters that have been in operation since the 1970s, most viewers will experience nothing, because cable customers are already watching digital TV, Pruitt said at Thursday’s Rotary meeting at the Pompano Club. Those who aren’t ready, with an installed converter box, will get what Pruitt calls “fur.”

At midnight Friday, the nation’s full power broadcasters will switch from analog to digital broadcasting format, as law requires. While newer sets may be already equipped with a digital tuner, older ones will require a converter box. Pruitt suggests those will older “rabbit ear” antennas to get new ones for the switch. The switch will result in less interference and sharper pictures.

“It’s a whole lot of hubbub,” Pruitt said. “There’s definitely not much you have to do.”

To illustrate how few viewers will be affect by the change, Pruitt asked his audience to hold up their hands. He asked them to lower their hands if they were cable customers or subscribed to other services. Soon, just one Rotarian had her hand up. The Lumberton resident said she had a converter box “in the closet somewhere,” but wasn’t in a hurry to figure it out. When the TV is off, the kids are outside playing, she said.

Pruitt said millions of dollars of advertising have gone toward making people aware of the change, but relatively few people will be affected. It’s important for people to remain connected, to learn of news in an emergency, he said.

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