5 On Your Side

Switch to All Digital TV Only A Year Away

Posted January 10, 2008

Viewers are asking lots of questions ahead of the biggest change to television since color replaced black and white, set to happen in a little more than a year.

The Federal Communications Commission has ordered all TV stations to switch from broadcasting analog signals to broadcasting solely digital signals by Feb. 17, 2009.

Analog signals have been used to transmit TV programs since they hit the airwaves. Analog signals can be received by any TV set, including those with an outdoor antenna or set-top "rabbit ear" antennas.

Many TV stations also broadcast digital signals, as WRAL-TV has done since 1996. While any TV can pick up WRAL's analog signal on Channel 5, only those with a digital tuner or connected to digital cable or satellite service can pick up WRAL's digital channels.

The FCC regulation will end all such arrangements, which has many viewers wondering if they will still be able to pick up their favorite programs on their old sets.

Viewers with cable or satellite service will not have to change anything.

Those without such services or a digital TV, though, will need a digital-to-analog converter box, or a DTV box. The easy-to-install electronic device hooks up to an analog television set and an outdoor antenna or rabbit ears and converts the digital television signal into analog.

Each non-digital TV set will need a separate DTV converter box.

The boxes will go on sale in February in more than 14,000 retail stores, including Best Buy, Circuit City, Kmart, Sam's Club, Wal-Mart, Sears, RadioShack and Target.

DTV boxes will likely cost about $60, but each household can request up to two coupons, worth about $40 each, from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Consumers can apply for coupons via a Web site, a toll-free phone number or regular mail.

For more details, go to the DTV Converter Box Coupon Program Rules: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/dtvcoupon/rules.html.

Another option is to buy a DVR or DVD recorder with a digital tuner, which typically go for around $200. The devices route signals from antennas through the recorder and into the TV.

Viewers might also be left wondering how to tell if their set is a digital TV. To check for a digital turner, look for words like Integrated Digital Tuner, Digital Tuner Built In, DTV or HDTV.

If the TV is labeled Digital Monitor, HDTV Monitor or Digital Ready, it probably does not have a digital tuner and will need a converter box.

However, consumers do not need to buy a high-definition televisions to receive digital signals, because high-def is just one of the digital formats that TV stations can use.

Standard-definition digital TVs are less expensive than similar HD models, but high-def TVs provide the best picture quality.


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  • Six String Jan 12, 2008

    Next year should be a real hoot for those older folks who don't understand digital technology. I showed my dad (age 87) my digital camera last year and he wanted to know what kind of film is uses ("what do you mean it doesn't use film?! It has to use film!!"). It took 1/2 hour to get him to understand the concept, and I'm still not sure he gets it. Good luck, folks.

  • unblankenbelievable Jan 12, 2008

    I'm wondering why our government wants to issue 40$ cupons to every home in the country? Is TV that important that big brother is willing to give us money? How bout giving us a 40$ coupon to put gas in our cars so we can go to work to pay more taxes.

  • syracuseinwonderland Jan 11, 2008

    "Regarding whether cable companies will still provide analog service, the answer is probably."

    It shouldn't be a problem for them, in short they have the TV antenna and DTV converter on their end.

    "unless the system is entirely digital."

    I could see this happening in the future due to cable tv's limited bandwidth. They will need to tier their digital services though or they could price themselves right out of the market.

    Probably best for people to call their company and ask.

  • Mr. John Q Public Jan 11, 2008

    Another option is to buy a DVD recorder with a built in ATSC tuner (converts digital signal). It should serve as a digital tuner and allow you to time-shift programming.

  • Mr. John Q Public Jan 11, 2008

    Regarding whether cable companies will still provide analog service, the answer is probably. An FCC ruling requires cable companies to continue analog service in most cases:

    " the FCC will require cable systems to offer “must-carry” stations in both analog and digital form, unless the system is entirely digital."

    source = http://dtvfacts.com/latest/516/cable-dtv-transition/

  • syracuseinwonderland Jan 11, 2008

    If your cable or satellite service carries local channels you won't need a converter.

    If you currently use an antenna to receive local channels you will need a converter box.

    Check WRAL's info page:


  • colliedave Jan 11, 2008

    The signal may change but the stuff they are sending will not, the only things I watch are hockey and some football games.

  • WXYZ Jan 11, 2008

    Buy a digital HD TV if you can afford one. Connect your new TV to an antenna on your roof, chimney or in your attic--make sure the cable and connections are tight and well grounded. The size antenna you need depends on how far you are away from the Clayton broadcast antennas or other broadcast antennas around the Raleigh area. Point your antenna at the high broadcast towers in Clayton, NC. Run the automatic channel setup for your antenna input and you will be amazed; at how many channels you get, at the high resolution and definition of picture, the bright vivid colors and high quality sound. The analog video is good, but the HD video is fabulous. Once you experience HD, you will not want to go back to analog. And best of all...no more monthly bill from the cable or satellite companies! Hooorrraaayyy!

  • Dr. Dataclerk Jan 11, 2008

    Technology is here. I guess I will try and get some of those coupons.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Jan 11, 2008

    I know someone that still has analog cable. This article says those with "cable" will not have a problem. Is this true? Or will analog cable customers be forced to upgrade to digital cable?