Are you ready for the digital TV transition?

February 4, 2009 1:22:40 PM PST
What you need to know about theJune 12, 2009 switch to DTV

On June 12, 2009, full-power analog broadcasters will transition to digital television service. If you receive free over-the-air TV from an antenna and you do not have a digital TV set, you will need a converter box that converts the digital signal into the analog format in order to continue to receive access to free digital television after the transition date. If you subscribe to satellite, cable, or a paid TV service, or if your TV has a built in digital tuner, no action is necessary.

For additional information regarding the analog to digital transition and to receive a $40 coupon (2 per family) towards a converter box, please visit www.dtv2009.gov or call 1-800-DTV2009; for the hearing impaired call 1-877-530-2634.

For in-depth and updated information about the DTV transition, visit: www.dtvanswers.com.

For useful information about using an over-the-air antenna to receive Digital TV signals you can also contact your local Radio Shack store at (800- 843-7422).

Answers to frequently asked questions

What is analog television?
Analog television service is the traditional method of transmitting television signals. Analog transmission has been the standard broadcast technology since the inception of television. Analog is not as efficient as digital television: it uses up much more of the valuable spectrum than digital, and TV stations can only transmit one channel of programming with an analog signal versus up to four or more programs with a digital signal in the same amount of spectrum. Analog is also susceptible to interference and "snow" that make a picture less clear.

What is the DTV transition?
The DTV transition is the switchover from analog (the traditional method of transmitting television signals) to exclusively digital broadcasting of free television programming for all full-power television stations. The transition from analog to digital television represents the most significant advancement of television technology since color TV was introduced. The DTV transition will be completed on June 12, 2009, as set by Congress. Full-power television stations have been preparing for the transition from analog to DTV since the late 1990s, when they began building digital facilities and airing digital channels alongside regular analog broadcasts. Today, 1,624 out of 1,762 full power television stations nationwide offer digital programming.

What equipment do I need?
If you currently receive free over-the-air television programming on an analog television set, you will need a DTV converter box to continue to receive television service after June 12, 2009. DTV converter boxes will be available in early 2008. To help consumers cover the cost of the converter box, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is issuing up to two converter box coupons valued at $40 each to households. Information about the DTV converter box coupon program is available at www.ntia.doc.gov.

What is a DTV converter box?
A DTV converter box is an easy-to-install electronic device that hooks up to your analog television set and over-the-air antenna and converts the digital television signal into analog, making it viewable on your analog TV. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will issue up to two converter box coupons valued at $40 each to households to help defray the cost of the converter box. To apply, or for more information, visit www.dtv2009.gov.

When can I obtain a DTV converter box?
Converter boxDTV converter boxes that transform digital television signals to analog are now available for purchase at electronics retailers across the country. Converter boxes allow consumers to maintain their free, over-the-air television service even on older analog TVs. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is issuing households up to two converter box coupons each valued at $40 to help defray the cost of the converter box.

Where can I purchase a DTV converter box?
DTV converter boxes that make digital broadcast signals viewable on analog television sets are now available for purchase at electronics retailers across the country. Each box is expected to cost between $40 and $70. But households can apply for up to two $40 coupons from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that can be used toward the purchase of converter boxes.

When can I get a coupon for a DTV converter box?
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are now issuing coupons for DTV converter boxes. Households may apply for up to two coupons, which must be redeemed within 90 days. The coupons cannot be combined to purchase a single converter box, nor can they be used toward the purchase of other products.

How do I sign up for the DTV converter box coupon program?
Between Jan. 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, all U.S. households are eligible to request up to two $40 coupons to be used toward the purchase of up to two, digital-to-analog converter boxes. For more information about the converter box coupon program, call 1-888-DTV-2009 or visit dtv2009.gov.

How do I hook up a converter box to my TV?
Click here to download a converter box installation guide.

How do I know if I have an analog or digital television set?
To check whether your TV set can receive over-the-air digital broadcast signals, review your owner's manual or examine the set to see if it has a built-in Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) tuner. You can also visit the manufacturer's Web site and find out the capabilities of the set using the manufacturer model number.

Will I need a special antenna to receive DTV over the air?
If you currently use an indoor or rooftop antenna to receive over-the-air analog broadcast television signals and you already get good or excellent reception quality, you should be able to get reception of digital television broadcast signals with the same antenna. For more information about using an antenna to receive local television broadcast channels, visit www.antennaweb.org.

Can I continue using my existing VCR with a DTV converter box for timed recordings?
Yes. However, after the digital transition, the tuner in the VCR won't be able to pick up over-the-air programs for recording. Instead, the input to the VCR must be connected to the output of the DTV converter box. You must set the tuner in the DTV converter box to the channel you want to record prior to the start of each recording period programmed in the VCR.


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