Digital TV transition deadline approaches

By Johnny Jackson


Viewers of over-the-air television have less than a week to prepare for the nationwide digital television transition.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set a June 12 deadline for full-power broadcast television stations to stop broadcasting on analog airwaves, and begin broadcasting digital signals.

FCC officials said they do not anticipate interruptions during the digital transition, which is expected to be completed by June 13. Officials added that the digital transition has been under way since the initial Feb. 17 deadline, when some stations stopped broadcasting in analog.

The switch to all-digital broadcasting, according to the FCC, will free up frequencies along the broadcast spectrum for use in public safety communications.

This weekend, local television viewers and consumers will have an opportunity to speak to FCC representatives at the Sweeties Flea Market, 2326 U.S. Highway 19/41, in Hampton. The representatives will be on hand to help consumers sign up for digital-converter box coupons as they prepare for the digital transition.

The event, which lasts from 7 a.m., until 4 p.m., today and Sunday, will include question-and-answer sessions and demonstrations on how to install a converter box to an analog television set.

"If you don't have cable or satellite, you need to have a digital-converter box or antenna," said FCC Spokesman Mark Wigfield.

Wigfield said consumers who rely on antennas to receive over-the-air broadcast signals on television sets having only analog tuners will need to obtain digital-to-analog set-top converter boxes, which receive digital signals and convert them into analog format for analog television sets. He said consumers may be able to apply for converter box coupons in order to buy and connect the digital converter.

Cable and satellite subscribers, he added, should ask their cable and satellite providers what they will need and when.

Additionally, the FCC has mandated that television receivers shipped inside the United States since March 2007 contain digital tuners. Television sellers and retailers must, otherwise, disclose at the point of sale whether a television receiver has an analog-only tuner.

Wigfield said some consumers may still find some changes to how they receive broadcasts once the digital transition is complete.

"The channel that you use may not change, but the actual radio frequency could change," he said.

Most digital television set-ups will automatically adjust to the appropriate frequency, he continued. Other set-ups will require the converter box be scanned.

"A lot of the stations are going to be in the higher frequencies than they were in the past," Wigfield added. "I suggest they scan the box as the stations transition."

He noted the digital television transition will not affect all television transmissions.

"Low-power television stations will still be able to broadcast over the airwaves through analog transmissions," he continued. He said there may be plans made, in the future, to convert low-power television stations to digital broadcasts.

For more, contact the FCC at 1-888-225-5322 (TTY: 1-888-835-5322), or visit the commission's Digital Television Transition web site.


On the net:

Digital Television Transition: www.dtv.gov