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5 Tips On The Conversion To Digital TV

On February 17, 2009 over-the-air television stations will be converting their analog signal to a digital signal.  If you get your television signal through cable or satellite, you should not be affected at all by this change.  If you are watching an analog television that is getting its signal through an antenna, you will not be able to pick up your local TV stations as of February 17.  There are still about 15 million homes in America that do not have cable or satellite.  But there is an unknown number of homes that may have cable or satellite on their primary TV sets, but have an analog TV in the garage, kitchen, or other area of the home that is still receiving a signal through an antenna.  The number of people that have a “secondary” TV receiving a signal through an antenna may be as high as 40 million.

I won’t get into any long explanation about digital vs. analog, other than to point out that a digital signal is based on the transmission of numeric values.  This is the same technology that modern computer programs work from.  The best comparison that would make sense to most people is a CD vs. a vinyl record.  Think of our current TV broadcasting technology as the equivalent of a vinyl record, that will now be upgraded to the quality level of a compact disc.  The promise is that we will receive a better picture quality, and that there may be some interactive qualities (such as choosing which camera angle you want to watch a baseball or football game from).  It will also allow TV stations to split their signal and produce four or five programs simultaneously.  This is similar to what has happened with HD Radio.  Many large cities now have HD radio stations, which can turn one radio signal into three separate radio channels.  So, the same station could have classical, jazz, and rock music all available and the listener gets to choose.

1.  You Don’t Need To Do Anything If You Are Connected To Cable or Satellite

There are a lot of people out buying new TV's and panicking that will be completely unaffected by the change to digital.  Remember, this is only an issue if you are receiving your television signal through an antenna.

2.  You Can Get A $40 Coupon From The FCC Toward The Purchase Of A Converter Box

If you want to keep watching your old analog TV, you can do so by purchasing a converter box for about $50.  The government is offering up to two $40 coupons per household toward the purchase of a converter box.  You can apply for a coupon online through this link Converter Box Coupon Program

3.  You Can Buy A Digital TV

I did an online search today and found 13” digital TV’s starting at about $140.  So, if you decide to pick up a new TV for the garage or back patio, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. 

4.  Can The $40 Coupons Be Applied Toward The Purchase Of A New Digital TV?

I had heard that the coupons could be used toward a new digital TV, but I called a few major retailers directly and none of them said they would accept the $40 coupon toward anything but a converter box.  If you find a retailer that will accept the coupon toward the purchase of a digital TV, let me know so we can pass that along.  At this point, this appears to be just a rumor (or wishful thinking).

5.  Don’t Fall For The Lie That The Converter Boxes Don’t Work

I am just passing along what I have read in several articles while researching this week’s blog.  Apparently, a sales tactic being used by retailers is suggesting that the converter boxes don’t work very well or at all.  This is done in an effort to get people to buy a brand new TV set.  I think it would be worth the $10 out of pocket ($50 converter box cost less $40 coupon) to at least try using the converter box on your TV before accepting the notion that it won’t work.  From everything I have read, there should be no reason why your analog TV would not work with the converter box.

All in all, this conversion to digital seems like a good change.  I am sure that there will be plenty of people banging on their TV sets on February 17 who did not get the word about all of this.  I think the word to the wise here is not to end up using this transition as an excuse to buy a new TV when you don’t need one.  I am probably spoiling plenty of husband’s plans to use this conversion to convince their wife that a new TV is needed before the Super Bowl this year.  My advice, keep your current TV and just sit closer.

Helping you make the most of God’s money!

James L. Paris
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