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Television's Digital Transition - Be Prepared for the February Switch

October 2, 2008 - After February 17, 2009, television stations will be broadcast in a digital format; signals will no longer be transmitted in the traditional analog form. 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. Later, Congress mandated that February 17, 2009 would be the last day for full-power television stations to broadcast in analog. Broadcast stations in all U.S. markets are currently broadcasting in both analog and digital. After February 17, 2009, full-power television stations will broadcast in digital only.

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 that will be transmitted in February 2009. 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.

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