5 On Your Side

Group: Some Retailers Mislead Customers About DTV

Posted February 13, 2008
Updated February 20, 2008

— Beware of what you hear about the upcoming digital television transition. A national consumer group issued that warning after it found that some retailers have been misleading consumers.

The North Carolina chapter of the Public Interest Research Group, or PIRG, refers to it as a serious case of "mixed signals."

One year from next week, television will undergo a huge change to digital. People who rely on an outdoor antenna or rabbit ears to watch TV will no longer be able to get a usable signal unless they take action.

After sending secret shoppers to dozens of retail stores, PIRG found sales people across the country who gave out erroneous information about DTV.

In North Carolina, 70 percent of the sales clerks questioned by PIRG’s shoppers gave out wrong information.

“This will cost consumers both time and money,” said Kat Scott with PIRG. “In the worst case scenario, instead of purchasing a basic $40 converter box, consumers may be led to believe that they need to purchase a brand new digital television, which can run upwards of $400.”

Some stores are starting to sell the basic converter boxes that Scott mentioned. The federal government is offering coupons to help pay for the boxes.

The boxes convert digital signals back to the kind of signal that standard televisions can display.

For more information about the coming change, see WRAL's DTV information page


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Travised Feb 15, 2008

    There's a channel I can only get on antenna. Cable refuses to pick it up, and when they DO carry their broadcast it is for the house/senate floor sessions. I turn it on to catch REAL weather feed and NOTAMS. Not sure what the channels destination is being publicly funded. They may end up getting limited area only where they are picked up.

    However for those on 1080's frequently antenna will give you a better signal than cable. It's not as quashed (compressed) on antenna as the cable providers need to do to share the bandwidth with all the channels.

    I agree.... Initially they (marketers) WERE implying we needed new TV's. The other way around is if you have cable, your Cable Box is your converter for D-A. You don't need to buy anything extra.

  • Spirit Warrior BallReceptable Feb 14, 2008

    This change is good - I can't wait to ditch my analog TV. People who have "fallen victim" to the problem of misinformation by the retailers are in a much better position to enjoy the huge improvements in quality.
    If you bought a digital TV a whole year ahead of the impending cutover, you were in the market for a new TV.
    For those of us who aren't in the market for a new TV (can't afford one yet), we'll just twiddle our thumbs until the signal gets cut. Won't be long till we get ourselves a converter box or replace that TV...

  • TheAdmiral Feb 14, 2008


    Because you think the Bush Administration is responsible for the drought and they should give you a handout.

    When it is really Meeker and the City Council and any one else who is not taking action to increase their water infrastructure, but want to charge you more taxes that will never be spent where it is supposed to go - but for Meekers "Happy Little Tree" project.

  • syracuseinwonderland Feb 14, 2008


    Because the Federal Government auctioned off publicly owned airwaves and forced us to use another video broadcast format.

    Local news, weather, Emergency Alert System (formerly Emergency Broadcast System) it's not all "brainwashing".

  • justjean Feb 14, 2008

    Can someone tell me WHY the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is giving out coupons to offset the cost of a converter box, but our local Government does nothing to offset the cost of low-flow shower heads and toliets?? Give me a break! If people want to watch the stupid T.V., then go get a converter box, but don't rely on the Government to help you pay for your brainwashing...

  • davidgnews Feb 13, 2008

    For all of the hoopla, this still hasn't been planned out too well. Most people I talk with are still unaware that you can get coupons toward converter boxes. Heck, Echostar is going to be practically giving them away at $39.95 each !

    I'll bet the price of sets will be dropping a lot by the end of the year and guess what? - a fabulous Christmas sales season will be underway !!!

  • imtiredofit Feb 13, 2008

    I've had a digital TV for over 6 years and I can tell you from experience that the people are being misled about the switch to digital TV. The biggest problem consumers will run into is the premise that they can get a converter and watch Over The Air DIGITAL TV just like they used to with their indoor antennas. This is the biggest LIE! Unless you can receive a clean digital TV signal without obstructions from buildings or hills or trees you WILL NOT receive Over The Air digital TV. WRAL makes it seem like the only thing that will change is the way we receive the signal but they are misleading the public too. Unlike analog TV that in a poor signal area you would still get a picture on your TV but it may be fuzzy or have ghosts, digital TV is not that way- you either receive a good clear signal and are able to watch the channel or if you are getting a marginal signal you will see NOTHING except a blank screen.

  • syracuseinwonderland Feb 13, 2008

    "The audio and video are seldom in sync. So much so that usually I watch the analog feed." rdkeller

    What channels, shows are you seeing this on? Try e-mailing the station engineer.

    I very rarely see this, the exception is when WRAL transmits the morning news on WRAZ 50.1, using the el cheapo ATSC card in my pc. Maybe I need to upgrade the firmware.

  • gadgetry Feb 13, 2008

    To ginnyh24: I am also a DirectTV customer, but I pay the $5/month so I can get the local channels via DirectTV. Yeah, I could get them for free but that would require an outside antenna (which I don't have) and more hassles of switching to/from DirectTV. This will continue to be available even after non-HDTV stops.

    To kre2208:
    Yes, TVs have been stagnet for years because they can't upgrade to a better format unless we change the over the air transmission signal. As TVs get larger, the 520 lines of a standard TV transmission is not enough. So it is not a set of companies, or the federal government pushing this down our throats, it is consumers wanting bigger and better.

    To rdkeller:
    The out of sync between the picture and voice is not due to a problem with the technology or the transmission, but to the implementation of the standard in the TV. Some TV brands exhibit this problem worse than others. Perhaps you got stuck with one that didn't handle it very well. I just bought an HDTV

  • ginnyh24 Feb 13, 2008

    Just FYI to the nice person who thinks we don't need the info if we use antennas: I live in northern Duplin county. WRAL is not considered a local channel by Directv. Thus, if I want to watch WRAL (and I do), I must rely upon an antenna. And, yes, I have a pc.