The Linear Canvas
This journal is about the wrongs and rights of the world, as I see them.

The Linear Canvas

Digital TV Transition, February 17, 2009

December 17th, 2008 . by Alexander Fisher

On February 17, all full power broadcast TV stations will be shutting down their old style transmitters and turning on a new one. The new transmitter will be a digital (computer) signal that will not work on many older TV sets. Even some TV’s bought in the last five to ten years are not capable of receiving the new broadcasts. Some that are capable may just need reprogrammed.

There are two ways of upgrading your TV if it needs it. If you have a standard TV, you can use a Digital TV converter. If you have a monitor or a computer, you will need a digital TV tuner. Part of the cost of the digital converter is covered by a $40 coupon available from the government. The ones I have seen have had an antenna input, antenna output, and video/audio connectors. That means even the digital converter can work in many applications including computers and monitors. Just don’t expect high definition until you buy a new TV. To obtain the coupon for the converter, go to or call 1-888-388-2009.

The bottom line is that if you have an outside antenna or rabbit ears on your TV, you need to do something before February 17, unless you want to give up watching TV forever. If you have cable TV or a satellite dish, you should be alright. If you have cable and your picture goes off on your local channels after February 17, you need to call your cable company. They obviously dropped the ball.

Here is the official explanation of what is happening on February 17.

The federally-mandated switch from analog to digital television is the most significant upgrade in television since the advent of color programming.

In the Digital Television and Public Safety Act of 2005, Congress set a hard deadline of Feb. 17, 2009, for television stations to replace traditional analog broadcasts. This switch from analog to digital broadcasting is known as the “DTV transition".

When the switch occurs, analog broadcasts previously used for television will now be dedicated to first responder services. Emergency first responders, police and firefighters require improved systems of communication. The transition to digital television will provide these responders with new frequencies to allow officials from all jurisdictions and levels of government to more easily share information. This could ultimately save lives.

While this may be a short-term burden for some, it will have long-lasting benefits for all who enjoy their televisions.

Simply put, the analog television standard is now outdated. Digital is not only better television, it’s a more efficient way to broadcast and will offer consumers an array of new wireless broadband services. The benefits of digital television are clear: crystal clear pictures and Hi-Fidelity multi=channel sound, more choices through additional digital side channels – such as all weather or all traffic channels – and the capability of high-definition broadcasting.

Most television stations in the United States are already broadcasting in digital, but many consumers are unaware of it and some are still unaware of the mandatory February 2009 transition. According to a recent survey, a majority of Americans have not seen, read or heard anything about the DTV transition – and among the few who have, many could not say when the transition would occur.

The DTV transition doesn’t directly affect everyone, however. Those who have a digital tuner in their television, or subscribe to a television service provider like cable or satellite need not worry. But those who are impacted will be impacted dramatically.

You need to take action if you are one of the 19.6 million American households that rely exclusively on free, over-the-air broadcasts made available through a rooftop antenna or "rabbit ears." Even if you do subscribe to a television service provider, you may have a television set in your second bedroom or kitchen that is impacted. Overall, the transition will directly impact more than 69 million television sets.

Fortunately, navigating the transition is easy. You have only to follow one of three simple steps to make sure your family continues to receive free, over-the-air television:

· Purchase a DTV converter box that will convert the digital signal into analog for an existing analog television set. The DTV converter box, sometimes referred to as a set-top box, is an electronic device that makes the new digital signal viewable on an older analog television set. Converter boxes will be available for purchase beginning in early 2008 and are expected to cost between $50 and $70. To help cover the cost of the converter box, the federal government will offer two converter box coupons, valued at $40 each, to eligible households. Each coupon may be used toward the purchase of a single converter box, and the coupon program will be administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. One will still need basic antennas in addition to the converter box to receive a digital signal on their analog television sets, but current antennas will work the same as before. For more information about the converter box coupon program, visit or call 1-888-388-2009.

· Purchase a new television set with a built-in digital tuner. Another option you may choose is to upgrade to a new television set with a built-in digital tuner. As with older sets, you will need basic antennas that provide quality reception of over-the-air analog television signals to pick up free digital broadcast programming from local stations. Before deciding to purchase a new digital TV, make sure your current TV doesn’t have a built-in digital tuner. Most sets sold in the last few years that are larger than 27 inches will likely have a digital tuner.

· Subscribe to a television service provider like to cable or satellite. Either of these services will allow you to receive digital television signals on analog television sets, as long as all the sets are connected to the service. No additional equipment is required for consumers who decide to go this route.

As February 17th is rapidly approaching, it’s a good idea to start thinking about which option will work best for you. Eligible consumers are encouraged to apply early for the converter box coupons. If you choose to purchase a new television equipped with a digital tuner, take time to learn about available options and features.

The digital television transition is coming and it means a better quality television experience for viewers and better communication for our first responders. So take action now to avoid problems and plan for the future.

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