Saturday, June 13, 2009

Digital TV Conversion

My TV turned into a white noise generator as of yesterday. I don't have a digital converter box, and I don't have any intention of buying one. I don't have cable or satellite TV service (I can't afford it). So my perfectly working, tiny 13-inch analog TV will be sitting on top of the counter as a memento from a by-gone era.

FCC, TV stations, and electronic stores sound almost disappointed that they don't have a flood of hysterical TV viewers calling and demanding to know what happened and what to do.

There are about 100 million households in the U.S., and about 2.5 million household are still not prepared, according to the article linked above. (That number seems awfully small to me, considering the government estimate in 2005 was 21 million.) Anyway, if the article is correct, a small percentage. But here's what I find interesting in the article:

"Any set hooked up to cable or a satellite dish is unaffected by the end of analog broadcasts, but around 17 million U.S. households rely on antennas. Nielsen Co. said poor and minority households were less likely to be prepared for Friday's analog shutdown, as were households consisting of people younger than 35."

Poor and minority households were less likely to be prepared, as were households consisting of people younger than 35.

You would think younger people are on top of anything digital, wouldn't you? Maybe they don't watch TV anymore to get the news or even watch shows. There's this thing called the Internet and cell phone.

The legislation to convert analog TV signal to digital signal was passed in 2005 by the way ("Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005"), as the result of what looks like a successful lobbying from the industries involved. For more, please read this article from It looks like the digital TV conversion was almost incidental; the main concern of the bill was to free up more bandwidth for security and law enforcement.

It couldn't have come at the worse timing. The country is in deep recession, with increasing number of people counting pennies to cut cost and save. And now you either buy a new digital TV, subscribe to cable or satellite TV, or buy this converter box (and most likely a digital antenna too). You have to spend. (The coupon does not cover the entire cost.) Besides, this conversion program is already generously funded by taxpayers through the original legislation and again through the recently-passed stimulus package (even though the original legislation is funded through the end of 2009 fiscal year).

I wonder where these converter boxes are made. At this point, TVs are almost all made in Asia, so the safe bet is that the converter boxes are also made somewhere in Asia. Well it has at least secured some employment over there.

For those of you who haven't converted and still wish to do, here's the site I found that explains pitfalls as well as what to do. Pitfalls like a need for digital antenna in addition to the converter box, digital channel's reception threshold, and UHF vs VHF. (Did you know that you may lose your digital signal even if you've been using the converter box already? You may, because many digital TV stations are moving to a different signal frequency.)

Are You Ready for the End of Analog Broadcast TV? (6/12/09, HDGuru)


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