Effective in 2009, all television stations may only broadcast in digital format. A digital TV, or DTV, is not optional.
Why Did DTV Happen?
The requirements for all-digital broadcasting freed up frequencies for public safety communications, such as police, fire, and emergency rescue. At the same time, the digital technology allowed local television stations to offer more programming options and improved picture and sound quality.
When Did TV Stations Switch to All Digital?
The original required conversion date was February 17, 2009. On February 4 Congress voted to extend the conversion date to June 12. This was done to give more consumers time to learn that they had to do something to get local TV signals, and to search for more funding to make more coupons for converter boxes available.
What Does This Mean to Me?
The transition to digital TV only means that if you are watching local channels but you don't have cable or a dish service for those local channels, you may need to buy a DTV converter box for your TV. If you receive only free over-the-air television programming, knowing the type of TV you own, either a digital TV or an analog TV, is very important. You won't get reception for even the local stations unless you:
- have a TV with a built-in digital tuner or a digital-ready monitor. If you already have DTV, you should be fine with your rabbit-ears antenna or roof antenna.
- make a few changes to your existing TV, if it is not a DTV. In this case, you will have to purchase a digital-to-analog set-top converter box to attach to your television.
What Do I Do to Transition to DTV?
If you pay a company for your television service, like Cox Cable or DirecTV or Dish Network, you don't have to do anything if you also get your local programming through them. You'll be fine, and the DTV transition will not affect you. If you don't have a paid TV service provider for local stations, you have to determine if your TV is a DTV.
Most TVs sold after May 25, 2007 have a digital tuner, so if you are buying a new TV but intend to use an antenna, make sure it is a DTV. If your TV was purchased before that date, look for the following words either on the TV itself or in the literature that came with the TV:
- Integrated Digital Tuner
- Digital Tuner Built-In
The words 'Digital Monitor' or 'HDTV Monitor' or 'Digital Ready' or 'HDTV Ready' do not mean that the TV actually contains a digital tuner. You will probably need to convert it to DTV. You should also check the manual or any other materials that came with your television in order to determine whether it contains a digital tuner. If you can't find that documentation, an Internet search for using the TV brand and model number along with the word 'manual' should allow you to find the documentation online. You can also call the manufacturer and ask.
I Guess I Need to Convert My TV?
Digital-to-analog set-top converter boxes are sold at various local retailers like Best Buy, Sears, Wal-Mart and Target and others. If your current antenna does not receive UHF signals (channels 14 and above) you also might need a new antenna because most DTV stations are on UHF channels.
Where Do I Get More Information?
Visit the FTC website on Digital TV.
In the Phoenix area, local stations are already broadcasting in digital at this time. The following channels are used by local Arizona stations.
- KTVK Channel 3
- KPHO Channel 5 (CBS)
- KAET Channel 8 (PBS)
- KSAZ Channel 10 (FOX)
- KPNX Channel 12 (NBC)
- KNXV Channel 15 (ABC)
- KUTP Channel 45 (My Network TV)
- KASW Channel 61 (CW)
- After the conversion to digital TV, most of these local Arizona stations will be seen on the same channel as they are now, although they will be UHF at that time and not VHF. If you have a VHF only antenna you won't get reception after the conversion.
Five Tips About DTV
- I applied for my converter box coupon in July 2008 and it took about 10 days to arrive. Don't delay! I expect wait times to get even longer as the February 2009 deadline draws near.
- The coupon for the converter box is a credit-card type card with a unique number. Don't lose it! It cannot be replaced.
- The best thing to do when you receive the coupon is to buy your converter right away. The coupon expires in 90 days!
- When you receive you coupon you'll also get a list of retailers in your neighborhood that are participating in the coupon program. Very handy!
- You can't buy a converter and then get $40 back after the fact. There is no rebate program. You must have the coupon at the time of purchase. After the coupon is applied, you can expect to pay between $15 and $30 for the converter box.