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Reminder: Switch to Digital TV Coming Soon

February 2, 2009 - The switch to digital TV is soon approaching, and there’s no time like the present to ensure your TV sets will continue to receive broadcast signals.

UPDATE: On Feb. 17, some full-power broadcast television stations in the United States may stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital. The remaining stations may stop broadcasting analog sometime between March 14 and June 12. June 12 is the final deadline for terminating analog broadcasts under legislation passed by Congress and expected to be signed by President Obama. To find out more about the transition date change, click here.

If you use “rabbit ears” or a rooftop antenna for TV reception, you probably need to purchase a digital converter to continue to receive free broadcast TV.

Converter boxes can be purchased at many electronics stores throughout the City, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is administering a coupon program to help offset costs for Americans who need to buy the digital converter boxes by offering each household up to two $40 coupons to be used toward the purchase of digital converter boxes. The coupons are good for 90 days.

Presently, NTIA has exhausted funding for the coupons and are awaiting approval for additional funding, but they are still accepting and approving coupon applications. Coupon orders are being filled as thousands of issued coupons expire each week and are then recycled back into the program. New Yorkers should call 311 to be transferred to the NTIA helpline, or they can call it directly at 888-DTV-2009.

TV viewers can prepare for this transition by reading the following FAQs:

What is the Digital TV (DTV) transition?

The switch from analog to digital broadcast television is referred to as the digital TV (DTV) transition. In 1996, the U.S. Congress authorized the distribution of an additional broadcast channel to each broadcast TV station so that they could start a digital broadcast channel while simultaneously continuing their analog broadcast channel.

What is an Analog TV?

Analog TV: Analog technology has been in use for the past 50 years to transmit conventional TV signals to consumers. Most current television transmissions are received through analog television sets. Analog signals vary continuously, creating fluctuations in color and brightness.

What is Digital TV?

Digital Television (DTV): Digital TV is a new type of broadcasting technology that will transform television. Because DTV is delivered digitally, the television signal is virtually free of interference. And because DTV is more efficient than analog, broadcasters are able to offer television with improved quality pictures and surround sound. DTV will soon replace today’s analog television.

How do I know if I own a DTV?

What you need to know is whether your TV set has something called a "digital tuner" already built in. If it does, your TV set is already configured to receive and display the new digital over-the-air TV signals. To check whether your TV set can receive over-the-air digital broadcast signals, take a look at your owner’s manual or look on the set for an indication that it has "digital input" or "ATSC" (for Advanced Television Systems Committee, which is developing the DTV format). You can also go to the manufacturer’s website and check the capabilities of the set by the manufacturer model number.

If your television set is labeled as “analog” or “NTSC,” and is NOT labeled as containing a digital tuner, it contains an analog tuner only. You will need a converter.

Will my existing antenna work with DTV?

DTV uses the same antennas as analog TV. If you already have a good VHF and UHF antenna, either indoors or on your roof, you don’t have to buy an antenna that is “HD Ready.” DTV broadcasters have been assigned channels in the VHF and UHF bands, between 54 and 700 MHz, where analog channels 2 to 51 are now. Therefore, as long as a DTV signal is available, your existing antenna should still work after the transition is complete.

How do I know whether I need a converter?

If you use “rabbit ears” or a rooftop antenna for TV reception, you probably need a converter. Television sets connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service do not require converters. Televisions with digital tuners also do not need converters. Take a short quiz at the DTV Transition Web site to see whether the converter box is the right option for your household to make the digital transition at www.dtvtransition.org.

For more answers to frequently asked questions, please visit the FCC‘s FAQ-Consumer Corner website at www.dtv.gov/consumercorner.html.

You can also visit http://www.dtv.gov/ for further information.

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