April 10, 2008
| by Kim Wilson
The date may have changed many times since broadcasters started digital TV transmissions but we knew this day was eventually going to come – the end of all analog, over-the-air TV broadcasts. It’s truly the end of an era in TV broadcasting that began with the first over-the-air transmissions in 1941.
As of June 12, 2009, the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 requires all full-power television stations to cease analog broadcasts. For a large portion of American’s this transition will go unnoticed because TV’s that are already connected to cable, satellite, or other pay services are not affected. If you are still using an analog TV, you can contact your cable or satellite provider to determine how they will support your analog set after the switch over to all-digital transmissions. In all likelihood, they will handle the transition for you and you will continue to receive TV signals from your current set-top box.
The transition primarily affects consumers who still depend on an antenna to receive TV transmissions over-the-air. To continue receiving a TV signal after the transition you’ll have to do one of three things, switch to some form of pay TV service, get a digital TV or purchase an inexpensive converter box.
While getting a true HDTV and connecting to a pay TV service offers the best in high definition programming, the digital converter box allows people to continue using their analog TV’s and receive the same stations they watch now, for free.
The converters will decode all of the possible ATSC formats, including high def signals, and downconvert them all to 480i. Also, with the converter box consumers will notice a clearer picture and receive additional new programming, without the monthly charges of cable and satellite providers.
There is one exception and that is for translator and low-power television stations, which are not required to go all-digital yet. Viewers of these broadcast stations should contact their station for details. As these stations go digital, consumers will need to take action to continue to receive their free TV with an antenna and may want to consider applying for TV converter box coupons.
A TV translator station rebroadcasts the programs of a full-power TV broadcast station. For example, the full power station might be channel 13 but the translator station is channel 22. These stations typically serve communities that cannot receive the signals of free over-the-air TV stations because they are too far away from a full-power TV station or due to extreme geography (such as uneven terrain or mountains). In fact, most translator stations operate in mountainous or more remote areas of the country. Low-power television stations usually provide a locally oriented or specialized television service in the communities they serve. These communities may be in rural areas or may be individual communities within larger urban areas.
The Converter Box
The TV converter is relatively small and should fit on top of most TVs. It plugs into your analog TV and, along with your existing antenna, will allow your existing analog set to continue receiving TV transmissions. The TV converter box is a one-time purchase and costs between $50 and $70. However, since the DTV transition is government mandated, they are providing each household up to 2 $40 coupons to defray the cost of a converter box.