• Last modified 3857 days ago (Jan. 28, 2009)


Digital TV still coming -- just later than planned

Managing editor

For those procrastinators who still have not made preparations to purchase a new television or make plans to adapt their outdated TV, you still have some time before the conversion takes affect.

Originally, viewers had until Feb. 17 before antenna users would be required to upgrade to digital receivers. However, on Monday, the Senate voted unanimously to postpone the upcoming transition another four months.

Congress may pass the proposal as early as Tuesday, which would make the transition date June 12.

The Nielsen Company estimated that more than 6.5 million U.S. households rely on analog television sets to pick up over-the-air broadcast signals. If the transition were to take place next month, millions could see their TV sets go dark if the transition is not postponed.

Analog vs. digital

Congress mandated the conversion to all-digital television broadcasting because all-digital broadcasting will free-up frequencies for public safety communications. Also digital is a more efficient transmission technology that allows broadcast stations to offer improved picture and sound quality. Some of the freed-up frequencies will be used for advanced commercial wireless services for consumers.

Currently those who view television by rooftop or set-top antennas are able to receive over-the-air broadcast signals on their TV sets having only analog tuners. When television stations change to digital broadcasting, a more advanced broadcasting technology, those analog television sets will not be able to receive the signal because it does not have a digital tuner.

Those viewers who have cable or satellite services will not be affected by the change.

For Gary Carlson of Carlson’s TV and Satellite of Marion his telephone has been ringing almost non-stop since September.

“Business has been a mad house,” Carlson said, but for him it hasn’t all been about antennas and old TV sets.

“Probably 60 to 70 percent of my calls have been for satellite upgrades,” he said, and for those wanting to purchase a digital televisions.

Those upgrades have been the inclusion of local channels, which are affected by the transition to digital broadcasting.

Many of the service calls he has answered for those with older TVs have been from those residents on fixed incomes who cannot afford cable or satellite services.

The biggest obstacle is people understanding the difference between analog and digital, and what this new way of broadcasting will mean to them.

“Those who have analog televisions will need a converter box to receive the digital signal,” Carlson said.

It also makes a difference in the quality of antennas, and antennas need to be in good condition.

“People can keep their old TVs as long as they have a good antenna and a converter box,” Carlson said.

There also is some confusion between digital television and high definition. High definition is a subset of digital television and if a TV is digital it is not necessarily an HD TV.

Also, not all television purchased in the past few years are digital. However, since mid-2007, all television equipment being sold should contain a digital tuner. If not, the retailer is to identify it as not having one.

The television repairman and satellite provider has been servicing county residents for more than 50 years.

When asked if this is one of the most significant transitions in his business, he said it’s significant but not the most historical.

“Changing from tubes to transistors was the most significant transition,” Carlson said. “It was the greatest improvement ever made.”

He said most changes are better but it causes too much waste because electronics become obsolete in such a short period and consumers are forced to discard and purchase new.

Keeping a stock of converter boxes has been a challenge even though he is not participating in the government rebate program.

For Radio Shack of Hillsboro, the converters have been a top-seller for several months and being a part of the rebate program has helped sales.

In the beginning, the store maintained a list of customers who wanted to purchase boxes. When a supply of the electronics was received, it disappeared about as quickly as it came in.

“The coupons have worked well for us,” said Cora Friesen, manager of the local store.

The government program provides a $40 coupon or voucher for residents to use at participating stores, including the Hillsboro Radio Shack. With the coupon, $40 is deducted from the price of the converter. The store then submits the coupons for reimbursement.

Even though there was a small stack of the converter boxes on the counter at the Hillsboro Radio Shack this past week, it is hard to predict how long converts will last on the shelves. Some brands are sold-out and the Radio Shack warehouse is unable to obtain more. However, there still are some brands of converters available.

Converters cost between $40 and $60, depending on the brand.

For a while, the government discontinued the issuance of the coupons because funds earmarked for the program were depleted.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is sending out new coupons because older coupons that were not redeemed are freeing-up more money for new ones to be issued.

How to get a coupon

All U.S. households may request up to two coupons, worth $40 each, to be used toward the future purchase of digital-to-analog converter boxes. These coupons will expire 90 days after mailing.

To apply for coupons, go to or call (888) DTV-2009.

Last modified Jan. 28, 2009