By June 12, 2009, federal law
requires that all full-power television broadcast stations stop
broadcasting in analog format and broadcast only in digital
format. Your local broadcasters may make the transition
before that date, and some already have, so be ready.
Why Are Broadcast TV Stations Switching to
Congress mandated the conversion to
all-digital television broadcasting, also known as the digital
television (DTV) transition, because all-digital broadcasting
will free up frequencies for public safety communications (such
as police, fire, and emergency rescue). Also, digital is a more
efficient transmission technology that allows broadcast stations
to offer improved picture and sound quality, as well as offer
more programming options for consumers through multiple
broadcast streams (multicasting). In addition, some of the freed
up frequencies will be used for advanced commercial wireless
services for consumers.
What Do I Need To Do To Be Ready For The DTV
What you need to do depends on the source of
your television programming, whether you receive programming
over-the-air or from a paid provider such as a cable or satellite
How Do I Receive Digital Broadcasts If I
Don’t Subscribe To Cable Or Satellite?
If you receive only free over-the-air
television programming, the type of TV you own, either a digital
TV or an analog TV, is very important. Consumers who receive only
free over-the-air television may view digital programming through
a TV set with a built-in digital tuner (integrated DTV) or a
digital-ready monitor with a separate digital tuner set-top box.
(Both of these digital television types are referred to as a DTV).
The only additional equipment required to view over-the-air
digital programming with a DTV is a regular antenna, either on
your roof or a smaller version on your TV such as “rabbit ears.”
If you have an analog television, you will
have to purchase a digital-to-analog set-top converter box to
attach to your TV set to be able to view over-the-air digital
programming (see “What About My Analog TV?” below).
How Do I Know Whether I Own a DTV?
As of March 1, 2007, all television receivers shipped in
interstate commerce or imported into the United States must
contain a digital tuner. In addition, effective May 25, 2007, the
Commission required sellers of television receiving equipment that
does not include a digital tuner to disclose at the point-of-sale
that such devices include only an analog tuner, and therefore will
require a digital-to-analog converter box to receive over-the-air
broadcast television after the transition date. Retailers must
inform consumers by prominently displaying the following text if
they are selling TV equipment with only an analog tuner:
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:
Therefore, after May 25, 2007, all television equipment being
sold should contain a digital tuner, or should be identified at
the point-of-sale as not having one. Be sure to look for this
label if you are purchasing a new TV.
As for how to determine whether your television equipment
purchased prior to May 25, 2007 is a DTV, many DTVs and digital
television equipment will have labels or markings on them, or
statements in the informational materials that came with them, to
indicate that they contain digital tuners. These labels or
markings may contain the words “Integrated Digital Tuner” or
“Digital Tuner Built-In.” “Receiver” may be substituted for
“Tuner,” and “DTV,” “ATSC,” or “HDTV” (high definition television)
may be substituted for “Digital.” If your television equipment
contains any of these labels or markings, you should be able to
view digital over-the-air programming without the need for a
digital-to-analog converter box. (Remember, you do not need an
HDTV to view free over-the-air digital programming. As long as
your television equipment contains a digital tuner, you can view
over-the-air digital. An HDTV is only necessary if you want to
view digital programming in “high definition.”)
You should also check the manual or any other materials that
came with your television equipment in order to determine whether
it contains a digital tuner.
If your television set is labeled as a “Digital Monitor” or
“HDTV Monitor,” or as “Digital Ready” or “HDTV Ready,” this does
not mean it actually contains a digital tuner. Thus, you still
will likely need a separate set-top box which contains a tuner in
order to view programs in the new digital TV transmission standard
(which includes HDTV formats) on such a set.
Over-the-air digital set-top boxes can be purchased at retail
stores. Cable and satellite TV providers also sell or lease
digital set-top boxes for their specific services. (Note: the
digital set-top box described here is not the same as the NTIA
program digital-to-analog converter box, described below, used to
convert free over-the-air digital broadcasts for viewing on an
analog TV set.)
If your television set is labeled as “analog” or “NTSC,” but is
NOT labeled as containing a digital tuner, it contains an analog
If you cannot determine whether your television set or
other television equipment contains a digital tuner, you are
advised to check your equipment for the manufacturer name and
model number, and then contact your consumer electronics retailer,
or the manufacturer, to determine whether it contains a digital
tuner. This information also may be available online through the
Because most broadcast stations in all U.S. television markets
are already broadcasting in digital, consumers are further advised
to contact their local broadcast stations to determine the channel
numbers on which the stations are broadcasting digital
programming. Consumers should then ensure that their televisions
are set up to receive over-the-air programming (as distinguished
from the signals of a paid provider such as cable or satellite TV
service), and then tune to the over-the-air digital channels to
see if they can receive the digital broadcast programming.
What About My Analog TV? Will It Still Work?
After your full power stations transition to
only digital, you will be able to receive and view over-the-air
digital programming with an analog TV only by purchasing a
digital-to-analog set-top converter box.
If I Already Have an Antenna, Do I Need a New
One to View the Digital Signals?
A special antenna generally is not needed to
receive digital signals. You may have antenna issues, however, if
your current antenna does not receive UHF signals (channels 14 and
above) well, because most DTV stations are on UHF channels. In
such a case, you may need a new antenna or to add a UHF section to
your existing antenna system. This equipment should be available
at most bricks-and-mortar and Internet consumer electronics
How Do I Receive Digital Broadcasts If I
Subscribe To Cable Or Satellite?
If you receive cable or satellite television
service, contact your cable or satellite provider about any
additional components, such as a digital set-top box, that you
may need to watch digital broadcast programming. However, if you
have a television not hooked up to a subscription service, you
may need a converter box to continue receiving broadcasts on
that television set.
If I Buy a DTV, Will My VCR, DVD Player,
Camcorder, Video Games, Or Other Equipment Still Work?
VCRs, DVD players, camcorders and video games
will continue to work, even if they are only analog-capable. Such
equipment, however, may not provide digital-quality picture and
sound. Manufacturers are producing a number of different
connectors to hook equipment together and improve picture and
sound quality. Check with your equipment retailer to determine the
types of connectors that will work with your equipment.
How Much Will DTV Improve My TV Viewing?
While picture quality will vary according to
whether you watch digital programming in high definition (HDTV)
or standard definition (SDTV) format, over-the-air digital
programming provides a better viewing experience than
over-the-air analog programming, as long as you have good
quality reception through your antenna.
How Much Will a DTV Cost?
Prices vary depending on the many features
and options available to consumers, including format, display
technology, and screen size. Display technology choices include
cathode ray tube screens, rear projection TVs, front projection
TVs, and flat panel TVs. Flat panel TVs, often the most expensive,
can use either a liquid crystal display (LCD) or plasma screen
technology. Screen size is measured diagonally across the screen,
and the larger the screen, generally the more expensive the TV. To
determine the equipment and features that are right for you, learn
about DTV from our Web Site and discuss your options with your
For More Information
For more information about the DTV
transition, go to
www.dtv.gov, which also provides links to several
other informative websites, or contact the FCC’s Consumer
Center by e-mailing
firstname.lastname@example.org; calling 1-888-CALL-FCC
(1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)
TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554.