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November 26, 2008 > The digital television conversion

The digital television conversion

What Every Consumer Needs to Know About the End of Analog Broadcast TV

Submitted By Mel Rogers

At midnight on Tuesday, February 17, 2009, television will undergo the biggest advance since the introduction of color: all over-the-air television stations will turn off their analog broadcast signals and switch over to 100 percent digital broadcast. With this change quickly approaching, consumers across the nation are faced with confusion and misinformation about the digital television (DTV) conversion.

Five things every consumer should know about DTV conversion

1. It is Unavoidable: The government has mandated that old analog television transmitters cease broadcasting television signals in February of 2009. Although many people are aware of the transition, they may not be aware of what they need to do. Households may not realize that they need to buy a converter box for any analog television not connected to a cable or satellite service and install it by February 17, 2009 to continue to receive free, over-the-air television. According to a current Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) survey, 25 percent of over-the-air households said they "don't know" what steps they will take for the transition, and 19 percent said they would "do nothing."

2. It Won't Impact Cable or Satellite Reception: The DTV conversion will only affect non-digital TV sets receiving signals via rabbit ears or a rooftop or attic antenna. With rare exceptions, all TVs can be converted to digital, even black and white ones, but since technical understanding varies, many people mistakenly believe they will need to purchase an expensive HD television or begin cable or satellite service.

3. There are Two Ways of Continuing to Receive Over-the-Air Television: A great deal of confusion remains about the differences between HDTV and standard digital television. While both are digital formats, the cost implications of equipment are significant and consumers need to know what questions to ask before they buy a new television or sign a cable, satellite or broadband TV contract.

a. Expensive Method: Buy a new digital HDTV and a digital antenna.
b. Cheaper Method: Get a $40 dollar coupon from the government to help you purchase a $70 converter box that will turn digital signals from your antenna into an analog stream for your old TV.

4. $40 Coupons are available: Government coupons are available to help consumers purchase converter boxes for old televisions. For information, visit

5. Don't Forget that TV in the kitchen or the shop - these are often not fed by local cable or satellite providers.

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