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Going digital

Feb. 17 is the last day full-power television stations will broadcast on analog airwaves before making the permanent transition to broadcasting only in digital. Cable and satellite customers are unlikely to notice a change. However, television viewers receiving their signals through an antenna or rabbit ears will need to take steps to ensure uninterrupted television service.According to the Federal Communications Commission Web site,, Congress mandated the transition from analog to digital to free up the analog broadcast spectrum for public safety communications. The FCC also will auction some of the spectrum to wireless broadband companies that will provide consumers with more advanced wireless services.Patti Clements, director of programming for KXRM Fox 21 and KXTV CW 57, said the change to digital broadcasting is positive for television viewers who get their signal through an antenna. “They will have a cleaner, clearer picture,” she said. “They are going to have wonderful audio.”Another benefit of digital broadcasting is it opens up more options for off-air viewers and allows local broadcast stations to provide services similar to what cable and satellite customers receive.”Because the bandwidth is so large, we are able to offer more information,” Clements said. With the remote that comes with the digital conversion box, Clements said viewers will be able to call up a TV guide, program descriptions and rating information. Local stations also have extra sub-channels in their digital broadcasting spectrum. Clements said some stations are already simulcasting, and her stations, Fox 21 and CW 57, are investigating ways to take advantage of this option.”We can have five to eight additional channels,” she said. “We can have an all-news channel, all-weather channel or all-classic TV channel.” Clements said she is receiving plenty of input from savvy viewers about the type of programming they’d like to see on the sub-channels.To be prepared for the digital conversion, all off-air television viewers need to check their TV sets. The FCC Web site states that digital TVs are marked with labels identifying it as capable of receiving a digital signal.Conversion boxes are available for older televisions and range in price from $40 to $80. Coupons to assist with the purchase of a converter box had been available through the U.S. Department of Commerce at According to the site, the program reached its funding cap and consumers applying for a coupon will be wait-listed. New coupons will be issued only as old coupons expire, without being used.Other difficulties in the conversion process involve the strength of the digital signal. Clements said that viewers who were not getting a crisp picture and clean audio with the analog signal will have trouble receiving the digital signal. “You may have to go get a booster or an amplifier to help the signal; it’s a little more finicky than the analog signal,” she said.Clement also said that only the full-power stations are mandated to switch to the digital stations. This allows low-power stations, such as KXTU CW 57 and KWHS 51, to continue broadcasting an analog signal.Some viewers are experiencing difficulty receiving the low-power stations if they have purchased a conversion box that does not continue to recognize the analog signal, Clement said. To compensate, she said Fox 21 is broadcasting CW 57 on one of the Fox sub-channels, until the CW can purchase a digital transmitter.Is your TV ready for the digital transition?Check the labels on your TV to see if you have a digital-ready TV or if you need to purchase a conversion box.Digital labels: Digital Tuner Built-in, digital receiver, Digital Tuner, DTV, ATSC, HDTVNon-digital labels: Labels reading “digital monitor,” “HDTV monitor,” “Digital Ready,” or “HDTV Ready” do not mean the TV actually contains a digital tuner, and you will likely need a separate conversion box. If it is labeled “analog” or “NTSC,” it contains an analog tuner only.If you cannot determine that your TV contains a digital tuner, check the set for the manufacturer’s name and model number and contact a consumer electronics retailer or the manufacturer.Source:ís note: After this article went to print, Congress voted to delay the transition from analog to digital broadcasting to June 12. The bill allows TV stations to convert to digital before the new deadline.

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