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The Clock Is Counting Down to a Digital TV World

Posted March 5, 2007
Updated October 2, 2008

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— Television as we know it is about to be history, a useless relic from the past.

Two years from now, the TV you watch may not be able to receive anything because of a major change in technology mandated by federal law.

The head of the Federal Communications Commission, which is overseeing the changes, was in Chapel Hill on Monday, and one of the hot topics he discussed was the nation's conversion to digital TV.

The bottom line for viewers is that there are two types of television: analog and digital. Digital TV has a better picture and better sound. Analog is what almost everyone has been watching since TV was invented.

About two years from now, on Feb. 17, 2009, the nation will totally switch from analog to digital TV. That means the guy with an old TV in his garage, for example, won't be able to watch anymore. He's either got to buy a converter box for his analog set or buy a digital TV.

The thing is, more than 20 million people have analog sets. When the plug is pulled on analog, as many as 70 million TVs will go dark.

“On Feb. 18 (2009), those TV sets will not be able to receive a TV picture of any kind,” media attorney Wade Hargrove said.

“Congress has set a hard date, and I think this is going to be a significant challenge,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said. Martin is a UNC grad and was back in Chapel Hill for a visit and a speech.

Many people who don't have digital TV live in rural areas or are poor or elderly. They may be eligible for government vouchers they can use to buy converter boxes for their analog sets. The box will turn a digital signal into an analog one their TVs can understand.

“There's a lot of concern about it. I think the key to it is making sure the public is informed well in advance,” Hargrove said.


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  • dark_magyar Apr 23, 2007

    Egh...there's not much worth watching on the old boob tube anyway.

  • NCSUSally Apr 2, 2007

    *sigh* Cathode Ray Tubes sounds so high-tech.

  • johnlong22 Mar 7, 2007

    The ignorance still persists. Digital TV does not mean HDTV. Nobody has to buy a new TV, the only thing that will be needed is a converter box...it's not that hard. All I keep reading in these posts are people talking about they HAVE to go buy a High Def. TV and one poster mentioned the date everyone was to be converted to HDTV...HD stands for high def...not high digital. High Definition can only be sent by a digital signal...but nothing says you have to purchase and HD program...the SIGNAL will be digital for your STANDARD picture and shows. The ONLY thing changing is the signal, analogue to digital...there is nothing High Def. about it. Nobody has to buy a widescreen, nobody has to buy a HDTV...the only thing anyone will need for their current TV is a converter box. Either buy it, or stop watching tv.

  • ahuber99 Mar 6, 2007

    Yeah, so I'm one of those few people who use rabbit ears as I cannot afford cable. So where does this change leave me? Is that earlier comment about how there will be more channels available for rabbit ear watchers true? Will I still even use rabbit ears after I get my free converter?

  • Been there once Mar 6, 2007

    Sorry oldies not 100.7 any more. Thinks it Y102.9 now

  • Been there once Mar 6, 2007

    Been listening alot to Oldies 100.7.Makes me feel young again. Haven't seen much on TV that sparks an interest. New season starts and you see 3 new episodes then reruns. Just not worth it, but tourney time is here, no reruns.

  • civic4u Mar 6, 2007

    There is always something out there to get your money!! Maybe this is a way God can get our attention more focused on him. Read more Bible watch no TV!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • tiffanie83 Mar 6, 2007

    So where exactly is the government planning on dumping all the old analog tvs that people are going to have to throw out?

  • Sapphire Mar 6, 2007

    It's obvious that we've no choice in what we want/would like to have. Next, the Government will be telling us that "we can no longer drink any tap water, or, our EXACT date to leave this world (die)".

  • Israel J Pattison Mar 6, 2007

    Be clear on one thing: this entire process is meant to increase revenue to the federal government. *SOME* of the old analog TV spectrum will go to public and civil radio services, but the vast majority of it is slated to be auctioned off to wireless providers. The FCC did this once in the 1990's and made "heap big" money on it. Now they want analog TV gone so they can sell spectrum again. On the other hand, wireless broadband will be abundant and cheap after 2009.