If the next time you switch on the television you see nothing but static, you won’t be alone. The FCC estimates that some 1 million television viewers are as yet unprepared for the digital television transition. To accommodate a likely flood of calls and requests from confused television viewers the FCC has put 4,000 operators on standby. Demonstration centers have also been set up in several cities to help people understand the digital transition, and how they can continue to get their programming.
The DTV transition marks the largest change to television viewing in sixty years. The last big change in the television industry was the switchover from black and white to color broadcast. The change was initiated as part of the Digital Television and Public Safety Act of 2005. The bill returns the analog bandwidth currently used by television broadcasters to use by emergency agencies. The date for the transition to digital television was originally set for February 17th of 2009. The Obama administration, fearing catastrophic backlash from television consumers unprepared for the transition, pushed the date back an additional four months. The FCC feels confident this move has greatly reduced the level of disruption that may be caused by the transition.
Here are some things to know about the digital television transition.
- Any television manufactured after March of 2007 is required by law to include a digital tuner.
- If you purchased a new television after that date, you don’t need digital converter box.
- If you already subscribe to satellite or cable television services, you already get digital programming and don’t need a digital tuner.
- Most televisions manufactured after 2004 will include a digital tuner. Check with your manufacturer to be sure. Many sets were sold as “HD-Ready” or “HDTV monitor,” meaning they have the hardware required to display a high-definition image, but require a converter or cable TV connection to receive a digital signal.
- Television sets made before 2000 will most likely require a digital converter box.
- If your television was manufactured after 2007 and includes a digital tuner, but your image is either garbled, or the station displays either static or a “please upgrade your hardware” message, you may only need a digital antenna.