The Sky is Falling …DTV is Coming…

    Today’s morning Enquirer carried a Cox News Service story about Congressional hearings regarding the termination of analog broadcasting. To recap, at 12:01 AM, Tuesday, February 17, 2009, analog TV broadcasting will be no more as the United States joins many other countries of the world in adopting an all digital broadcasting system.  In my opinion the story had a “Chicken Little” flavor since many of us will not be affected even if we still are then using our existing analog TVs.  The reason is that according to Nielsen Research, only about 20% of the households in the Cincinnati market ( and the US as a whole) require  broadcast over-the air signals to watch TV; the other 80% use either cable, satellite or a combination of both.  Since the cable and satellite set top boxes already convert digital signals so they can be viewed on analog TV sets, the fact that stations like CET will no longer be broadcasting in analog is irrelevant.

    For those who want to stick to receiving signals over the air, Congress has developed a voucher program that will award two $40 vouchers to each household requesting them.  The vouchers can be used to offset the cost of purchasing small digital converters that will receive digital over-the-air signals and convert them to analog signals that even your trusty old RCA with aluminum foil on the rabbit ears can handle.  They are still working out the details for distributing these vouchers.  I’ll be sure to let you know when an announcement is made.

     Congress also has mandated that retailers make sure that anyone buying a new TV, no matter the size, has information about what kind of tuner is installed.  If it has only an analog tuner, the set must have a label stating that it will no longer be able to receive over-the-air signals after February 17, 2009.

    Recently I took a field trip to see how various retailers were handling this disclosure requirement.  I browsed through some major “big box” stores.  I was surprised by what I found, or I should say, what I didn’t find.  Today, analog TV sets are as scarce as VHS machines.  For example, a stroll through “Best Buy” found no analog TVs at all.  Even the small inexpensive counter top sets had ATSC tuners built in.  That means that they have digital tuners capable of receiving the digital broadcasts.  They are not High Definition sets nor do they have wide screens, but they can receive all the broadcasted digital signals.  The good news is that the price seems about the same as the analog-only sets of last year.

    Seems like the “sky is falling” predictions that warned of millions of TV viewers would be looking at blank screens when they wake up on February 17, 2009 may be a bit over blown.  I’ll keep you updated.

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