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Digital TV Transition

How to convert your old TV to receive digital TV over the air.

Now that you want to convert your old tv to digital, there are a few things you need to know. This article will help explain your options and help you decide whether or not to take that old favorite tv that is just collecting dust and convert it to receive the new digital tv signals that you may get for "free" by using an "off the air" antenna. We will also make recommendations taken from well known reviews such as Consumer Reports.

Introduction. The Reason for DTV.
Why is television going from the old analog television broadcast technology to digital? The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 requires broadcasters to switch from analog (old technology), to all-digital broadcasting after February 17, 2009. Digital television provides a clearer picture and more programming but also does it more efficiently, using less of the airwaves. Our nation's airwaves are very congested and the problem is getting worse by the day.

Digital broadcasting will free up some of the nation's airwaves for fire fighters, police and other public service agencies to better communicate during emergencies and will allow consumers access to next-generation wireless services which take up even more "space" on the airwaves.

Does all of this effect me and my tv?
If you receive television programs free, over the air using "rabbit ears" or a rooftop antenna, you must take action and make decisions to continue to receive television service over the air after the changeover. Your older tv may not be designed to receive digital tv signals and will not work with the new digital transmissions. Effective 1 March 2007, new television sets that receive signals over-the-air, including pocket sized portable televisions, must include digital tuners for digital broadcasts. If your tv is older than that, it is the older analog type and will require an external digital tuner. 
As of this writing, all regular broadcast tv stations have made the digital changeover and you will NOT get the regular tv stations that you got before the changeover on your older tv without either buying a new tv or adding a converter box to the old one. 

Since the changeover date is already in effect, "over-the-air" television viewers will need to either purchase a new device, called a digital-to-analog converter box; (DTV converter), subscribe to cable or satellite service; or purchase a television with a digital tuner to watch TV after that date.

What do you need to do?
You have to decide whether or not to get a converter box or go with Cable or Satellite tv to get reception on that old tv. Now is the time to identify any televisions in your home that receive free, over-the-air programming through an antenna. If you are hooked up to a "master tv antenna systems" that may be in apartment complexes and unless they have made provisions to get the digital tv for you, or have switched to cable or satellite, then you will have to do it for your old tv.
Ways to Prepare checklist:

If Your TV tuner is:   

And you get your programming from:

You will need:



Digital-to-Analog converter box


Cable or satellite

Provider converts for you





Cable or satellite

Provider converts for you

A Few More Things You May want to Know!

Some companies will no doubt try to take advantage of the digital TV-transition confusion. Here are a few tips to help you make an informed decision before you buy or subscribe to something you may not need.

To clarify, you're tv is not affected by the DTV transition if you have one of the following:

* If if was manufactured on or after March 1, 2007
* A TV with a digital tuner (Check your user manual if you don't know)
* A digital-to-analog converter box
* A cable or satellite TV subscription that's not connected straight to your TV set (Check with your provider and ask questions to be sure)

Only analog TV owners who rely on indoor or outdoor antennas to receive over-the-air-television signals are affected by the change. So if this covers you, then you WILL NEED a converter box.

You should already know if your TV has a digital tuner. If it does... you are not effected! Nothing more for you to buy....unless you want to switch to HDTV (high definition tv).

If you own a TV that's a few years old, a quick look inside your owner's manual may tell you if your television has a digital tuner. Some TVs with this feature are labeled, but if yours isn't, you can go to the manufacturer's website and search for your model. It that's no help, then ask a local TV repairman.
Sets with digital tuners will have one of the following labels:

Integrated Digital Tuner
Digital Tuner Built-In
Digital Receiver
Digital Tuner
HDTV (High-Definition Television)

Do not buy a television that doesn't have a digital tuner, unless you're planning to spend more money on a converter box.

All new tv's manufactured after March 1, 2007 will have a digital tuner.
Used tv's most likely will not have them. If you plan to buy one anyway, keep in mind that it
doesn't need to be an HDTV,
unless you want high-definition programming. Most tv stations now transmit in high definition programming, especially "local" related programming and network feeds PLUS standard definition DTV for those who do not have high definition tv's. If you use outdoor or indoor antennas and you do buy an HDTV, then your present antenna may be fine for receiving their "off the air" programs in High Definition. As long as your present tv antenna is in good condition, it should work fine for digital. Don't believe the advertising hype that you need a "Whiz Bang Super Duper Ultra Whatever Digital TV antenna" !!!!!!

No digital tuner, no problem!
You don't have to get rid of your favorite analog TV set. Just get a converter box. 
Keep in mind that you don't need a converter box if you have cable or satellite service.

Still confused? Learn a sure fire testing method that will help you!

Connect your old tv to an outside tv antenna or a set of rabbit ears (if you live near the tv transmitting station). (The prefered is an outside antenna.)

Now tune to your favorite tv station that you received well before the DTV changeover using the same antenna.

Then try tuning the tv to many other channels. If you get nothing but snow on the screen, like this,

then you will need the converter!

How to hook your new DTV converter box:
First, read and understand the instructions that came with it.
The converter box will go BETWEEN the tv antenna connection on the back and the antenna cable. You may need a short jumper cable for it that fits the connectors. The converter converts or "changes" the digital signal electronically from the antenna to an analog tv signal that your old tv needs. You may have to "re-aim" your antenna a bit. (Many tv stations relocated their transmitting antennas during the transition.) Note also that many tv stations lost some of their original coverage area after the transition or they may have gained some coverage.

If you are getting a "broken" picture that looks like a patchwork quilt, similar to the picture below, Then you may need to use a better and higher tv antenna or re-aim yours. If the tv stations are in different directions from you, you may need to get an antenna rotor to aim it for each station for best performance.

(example of weak pixelated DTV signal)

Recommend DTV Converters

Recommended TV Antennas!

Where can I go to get more information about a specific DTV topic?

There are numerous web-based resources you should check out.
Here are a few of them. You'll probably find others as you surf the web.

General DTV information

DTV Station Locator. Use to locate digital stations near you.

The latest FCC DTV channel allocation tables, organized by state - www.transmitter.com

FCC FAQs on Digital TV - http://www.fcc.gov/oet/faqs/dtvfaqs.html