COLUMBIA — If you haven’t heard about the digital television transition and use a TV set with an antenna manufactured earlier than 2004, then your TV may go blank forever unless you take action.
Television stations nationwide are switching over their broadcasts from analog to digital, ceasing the older style of broadcast permanently. This will leave older TVs incapable of receiving the new signal without converters, which are available at most electronics stores for $40 to 70.
Television stations were prepared for the switch earlier this year and many have already begun their DTV broadcasts in advance. Friday is the official day for the change.
The Federal Communications Commission attempted to complete the transition in February, but overwhelming concerns that a large portion of the public was unprepared led Congress to delay the switch by 115 days.
For those who have already installed a digital-to-analog converter box, have a television with a built-in digital tuner or simply use cable or satellite service instead of over-the-air broadcasting should experience no interruption of service after Friday.
However, beginning Sunday, local FOX affiliate KQFX will begin broadcasting on Channel 22 instead of Channel 38 because of the switch to DTV. The station will also begin providing its programming in high definition. The change will allow cable and satellite subscribers to view the station in high definition, which they could not do before. It will only cause a change in channel number for Dish Network and Direct TV users.
As with any major change in technology that impacts a majority of the country, there are concerns and questions. Various government agencies, industry groups and broadcasting companies have assembled and made available information and resources to help individuals with the DTV transition. You can go to dtv.gov, dtvanswers.com or dtvtransition.org for assistance.
What is digital television?
DTV is an advanced method of broadcasting that will replace traditional, over-the-air broadcasting. This change is similar to developments in cell phone service that allow users to get their e-mail or view Web pages. DTV will allow broadcasters to provide a sharper picture, better quality audio, more channels or programs and the possibility of interactive services.
How do I know if my TV will work?
Most televisions manufactured after 2004 will work without having to purchase any additional equipment. If your television was made before 1998, you will have to get a digital-to-analog converter box to make it capable of receiving over-the-air broadcasts. TVs that fall in between may or may not require the converter. There is an online database available at bit.ly/dtvready that you can search to determine if your television model can receive DTV signals.
How do I make my older TV work?
You need to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box to use with your TV and antenna. These are available at most electronics stores, including Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Sears and RadioShack. They generally cost $40 to 70.
Are there any options to make a converter box more affordable?
There is a government-funded coupon program available. The coupons, each worth $40, may be ordered through July 31 while supplies last. Go to dtv2009.gov for more information about these coupons and how you can apply for them.
What can I do if I have trouble setting up the converter box with my TV?
If you have difficulty using the instructions included with the converter box, you should contact the manufacturer for further assistance. Stores that sell the boxes may also be able to provide answers to your problems. There are online resources available at dtv.gov, dtvanswers.com and dtvtransition.org with more detailed information and instructional videos.
Do I need a new or special antenna?
It depends. In Columbia, you will need an antenna that is capable of receiving both UHF and VHF signals. If your current antenna supports those signals, it should work with DTV as long as your TV has the converter or a built-in digital tuner. If you need further assistance, most stores that sell antennas should be able to answer questions. You can also go to antennaweb.org for more information.
I have cable or satellite TV, what do I need to do?
Nothing. However, if you decide to discontinue service and use an antenna, you may find that your TV is unable to receive the digital broadcasts. Then you will need to use a converter.
Will my VCR still work?
Maybe. Just as you must determine if your TV has a digital tuner, the same is true of your VCR. If it does not, then it will need to be connected to the converter box in order to view or record local stations. For more information on how to set up your VCR, DVD recorder, DVR or similar device — instructions are available from the FCC at bit.ly/dtvandvcr.
Will closed captioning continue to work if I use a converter box?
It should. Converter boxes eligible for the government-issued coupons were required to support this feature. However, it is possible to purchase a converter that does not allow for this to work. Please check the box or ask a store representative about this specifically. You can also go to a guide provided by the FCC at bit.ly/converterfeatures.