Monday, February 04, 2008
The over the air digital TV transition is less than two years away and that doesn't really mean anything to most Americans. This transition will mean the ceasing of over the air analog TV broadcasts in favor of digital over the air TV broadcasts. This means that after the cut off date of February 17, 2009, TV sets without digital tuners (which account for a lot of the TV sets out there) won't be able to display over the air TV anymore- at least not without an adapter. This presents a serious problem for a number of people who rely on over the air TV signals as their only source of TV programming.
People who do rely on over the air TV signals for their TV programming, and who don't have digital TV sets, do have some options though. The most obvious thing to do would be to buy a new TV set. All TV sets sold in the United States are now required by law to have the digital tuner that will allow them to pick up digital TV signals over the air. While this may be the obvious solution, it certainly isn't very realistic to expect people who can't afford to subscribe to satellite TV or a cable TV service to scrape together the money to buy a new TV set.
Another option that people who rely on over the air TV signals have is to get a set top box that contains a digital tuner and can display the digital TV programming on an existing analog TV set. There are a few different ways to do this. One is to buy a set top box that's designed to do this conversion with over the air TV programming. The other possibility is to subscribe to a satellite or cable TV service, because they will provide the equipment needed to translate their digital signals into analog signals.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it's not clear right now whether or not cable TV companies will be forced to deliver their programming in digital format. One of the main motivators of making the switch to digital programming for over the air transmissions is that sending out just digital transmissions will take up a lot less of the on air bandwidth than the digital and analog transmissions that are being used now. But because cable TV isn't broadcast over the air, it shouldn't necessarily have to convert to digital. Although there are a number of arguments that point out that it would be a good idea for cable TV companies to make the switch, considering that many haven't done so yet, makes it doubtful that it's really as simple as it seems. In any case, the status of cable TV's use of digital versus analog transmissions should be irrelevant to the conversion.
While there are a lot of different ideas floating around about what should be done to educate the public about the coming transition, there is one easy solution- simply run public service announcements about the coming transition on the stations that supply over the air TV and stop worrying about it.