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Satellite service causes complaints in digital TV test

Posted September 18, 2008

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— Many of our viewers are apparently not yet ready for the digital-TV transition. Wednesday night, WRAL-TV took part in a statewide "soft test" designed to help people determine their readiness.

By law, on Feb. 17, 2009, full-power television stations nationwide will stop using the old method of transmitting TV signals, known as analog, and begin broadcasting exclusively in a digital format.

In some cases, people weren't ready because they haven't taken action, but for others the problem involved their satellite service.

WRAL got a lot of e-mails after Wednesday's test.

For one minute, WRAL aired two different segments at the same time: people who were ready for the digital transition saw a story about it, while those who aren't ready saw a warning message.

However, plenty of people who saw the warning message were ones who did not expect it.

Anyone watching an analog television over the air without a converter box saw the message, which was the plan. At the same time, viewers who have cable or satellite service were supposed to see WRAL's story about the test – the one broadcast only in the digital format.

For many who rely on satellite service for their local channels, it did not work.

James wrote to WRAL, "When you guys did the DTV test ... my TV went out."

Another viewer e-mailed to say, "I have Direct TV and I saw the segment that said 'if you are seeing this, you aren't ready.'"

C.W. wrote, "During your test, my three televisions, all connected to satellite, did not show the report."

Kate was also confused and wrote, "We have Direct TV and I am concerned about getting the message that we are not ready. Can you tell me what happened?"

Yes we can.

It turned out that both Direct TV and Dish Network are still picking up WRAL's programming from our analog transmitter, not our full-time digital signal.

The providers said they will switch to the digital signal by December. That means viewers who use satellite service for local channels will be ready before the transition.

However, if you have satellite service, but still get your local channels from an antenna, you do need to get a converter box or a digital television.

Part of the goal of the test was to find the kinks. It is an example of why it is important to go ahead and get a converter box if you need it. Hook it up and make sure you get a signal. Several digital signals are up and running now.

The transition to DTV is being compared to the change from black-and-white television to color TV in the 1950s. TV stations have relied on analog signals for 65 years; digital TV provides a much sharper picture and better sound.

To find out more about the DTV transition, click here or call 1-888-CALL-FCC.

4 Comments

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  • FoolOnTheHill Sep 19, 2008

    USA Network started compressing their DTV signals last year for the US Open Tennis. On my big screen, you could see horrible pixelation. At least last year, UHD picked it up.

  • Israel J Pattison Sep 19, 2008

    I keep seeing claims that "digital TV provides a much sharper picture and better sound," but this is a half-truth. The better statement would be, "digital TV is capable of providing a much sharper picture and better sound." Cable and satellite operators are compressing these digital signals so that they can offer more channels. The compression results in a much lower dynamic range of colors than traditional analog signals. In other words, some channels look *horrible* especially on larger LCD and plasma televisions.

    The compression issue has been widely overlooked in the media coverage of the DTV transition. I have seen no mention of the problem in WRAL's coverage. Of course, my cable provider isn't compressing WRAL's signal, so WRAL is unlikely to receive much negative feedback. But I'll bet that the cable and satellite companies are going to get an earful come February.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Sep 19, 2008

    WRAL - Can you repeat the test again in the future for those of us who were unable to be home during the first test?
    godukebasketball

    I sure hope they would consider that. It would be a nice gesture on their part if they did.

  • godukebasketball Sep 19, 2008

    WRAL - Can you repeat the test again in the future for those of us who were unable to be home during the first test?