What You Need to Know About Digital TV

What is the date set by Congress for the end of full-power analog television broadcasting?

Congress has set June 12, 2009 as the final deadline for terminating analog broadcasts. Under the law, on Feb. 17, some full-power broadcast television stations in the United States may stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital. The remaining stations may stop broadcasting analog sometime between April 16 and June 12.

Do I have to wait until after June 12, 2009 to watch DTV?

No, digital television is available now. If you watch over-the-air television today, you should be able to receive all or most of your local stations' digital signals if you have a DTV receiver. You may view high definition and multicast programming from your local stations. Check your local program listings or contact your local TV stations to find out more about the digital television available now. The FCC's special website, www.dtv.gov, has more information on digital television, or call 1-888-225-5322 (TTY: 1-888-835-5322).

Digital Television Tuners

The Commission's digital tuner rule specifies that as of March 1, 2007, all new TVs must include digital tuners. This rule prohibits the manufacture, import, or interstate shipment of any device containing an analog tuner, unless it also contains a digital tuner. Despite this prohibition on manufacture and shipment, retailers may continue to sell analog-only devices from existing inventory. As a result, at the point of sale, many consumers may not be aware that this equipment will not be able to receive over-the-air-television signals after June 12, 2009.

To address this issue, the FCC has adopted a rule requiring sellers to display the following text if they are selling TV equipment with only an analog broadcast tuner:

CONSUMER ALERT

This television receiver has only an analog broadcast tuner and will require a converter box after February 17, 2009*, to receive over-the-air broadcasts with an antenna because of the Nation's transition to digital broadcasting. Analog-only TVs should continue to work as before with cable and satellite TV services, gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and similar products. For more information, call the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-225-5322 (TTY: 1-888-835-5322) or visit the Commission's digital television website at: www.dtv.gov.

* Please note that Congress has delayed the final transition until June 12, 2009. However, some local stations will be transitioning earlier, so it is wise to prepare now.

Digital Television Quality Levels

There are many quality levels of digital television programming. The most common are:

  • Standard Definition TV (SDTV)
    - SDTV is the basic level of quality display and resolution for both analog and digital. Transmission of SDTV may be in either the traditional (4:3) or widescreen (16:9) format.
  • Enhanced Definition TV (EDTV) - EDTV is a step up from Analog Television. EDTV comes in 480p widescreen (16:9) or traditional (4:3) format and provides better picture quality than SDTV, but not as high as HDTV.
  • High Definition TV (HDTV) - HDTV in widescreen format (16:9) provides the highest resolution and picture quality of all digital broadcast formats. Combined with digitally enhanced sound technology, HDTV sets new standards for sound and picture quality in television. (Note: HDTV and digital TV are not the same thing — HDTV is one format of digital TV.)
 
 
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