By now most of you have heard of the transition to digital TV (aka getting rid of the old tin-foiled rabbit ears), which will now take effect June 12 of this year via the DTV (Digital TV) Delay Act that Obama signed earlier this week. And you may have even caught wind of the noise surrounding how this piece of legislation is not mandatory, and that some stations have already made the switch to digital broadcast.
While there are a lot of great resources out there, for some it can still be complicated to digest all of the information at once – especially if you’re not an electrical engineer for a living. We’d like to take this moment to explain the transition to digital TV in plain, simple English.
Digital and analog, you say?
That’s right. Digital Television (DTV) is broadcasting technology that’s newer technology, and offers superior picture (high definition, or HD) and sound quality over traditional analog broadcasting technology that all of us are used to by now. Currently, all major broadcast stations (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, FOX, etc.) in the U.S. broadcast in both digital and analog. Congress has mandated that June 12, 2009 will be the last day for television stations to broadcast in analog. It’ll be truly be a digital world after this date.
How will I be affected and what do I need to do?
The type of TV you own will determine whether or not you’ll be affected. If you own a digital television (a TV with an integrated/internal digital tuner), you’ll be able to continue to watch free over-the-air programming after June 12, 2009, when the switch to digital is complete. If you have an analog television, you’ll need a digital-to-analog converter box, which will allow you to continue to watch broadcast television on your analog TV. If you have an analog television and you’d still like to continue to watch free over-the-air programming on it, the Government established the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program which makes you eligible to receive up to two coupons, worth $40 each, toward the purchase of the eligible digital-to-analog converter boxes.
How do I know if I have a digital or analog television?
The FCC has explained the criteria for determining this fairly well, and we’ll try to simplify this explanation a bit further. If you bought your TV after March 1, 2007 (the day the FCC mandated that all TVs shipped in interstate commerce or imported into the U.S. contain a digital tuner), then the chances of you owning a digital television are better. But the best way to determine whether your TV is digital or analog is to look for labels or markings on your TV, along with the literature that came with it. Such labels or markings that indicate you have a digital TV include “integrated digital tuner,” “digital tuner built-in,” “DTV,” “HDTV” and “ATSC.” If you find such a label on your TV, then you’re in luck. Remember to check your manual as well.
It’s important to note that if your TV is labeled as an “HDTV,” “HDTV monitor,” “digital monitor,” “digital ready” or “HDTV ready,” this doesn’t necessarily mean it contains a digital tuner, which allows you to receive free digital over-the-air programming on it. If you don’t have a separate set-top box which contains a digital tuner, then you’ll want to purchase an over-the-air digital set top box at a consumer electronics retailer. Remember that the digital set-top box we’re referring to here is not the same as the digital-to-analog converter box a few paragraphs above.
If you’ve read these steps and still can’t determine whether your television set or other television equipment contains a digital tuner, check your equipment for the manufacturer name and model number, and then contact your consumer electronics retailer, or the manufacturer, to determine whether it contains a digital tuner. This information also may be available online through your TV manufacturer’s website.
An additional note…
Windows Media Center (in most copies of Windows Vista) has supported digital over-the-air programming standards for years, and is a great option for getting live and recorded TV. All you need is an inexpensive digital TV tuner. Check out this page to help you get started in selecting one.