At what moment will the analog TV signal die?
January 5, 2009 11:23 AM   Subscribe

My friends and I would like to observe the switch-off of analog TV. The FCC has mandated that all analog TV stations stop on February 19, 2009. I'm planning to procure a bunny-eared TV to watch the signal go dead. Can anyone help me pinpoint when this moment is going to be? (This is going to be SO much better than New Year's)
posted by k7lim to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: According to
At midnight on February 17, 2009, all full-power television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to 100% digital broadcasting.
Have a fun party; I'll be doing one as well.
posted by fireoyster at 11:41 AM on January 5, 2009

inside information:

lots of networks are performing tests, where they will simply cease to broadcast the signal and put a message up saying something along the lines of "if you see this message please call xxx-xxx-xxxx" to see how the networks will be effected by people calling like mad the day the broadcasts are turned off. recently a test for a major in NYC netted only 3500 calls for all of manhattan.

shortened version. plug in the rabbit ears and start watching now. most of the networks are generating a really tripping bit of video with twilight zone style staticy color bars and stuff for this test message.

other than that midnight on the morning of the 17th as mentioned above is it. (your local time)

posted by chasles at 12:09 PM on January 5, 2009

The exact moment will vary from station to station. It could be midnight or 2AM.
It could go out at any time that morning depending on what station you're watching and when they pull the plug. I would set up a a DVR and at 11:59 just hit "record" for a few hours.
posted by Zambrano at 12:33 PM on January 5, 2009

Response by poster: To clarify, does "midnight on Feb 17" refer the first minute of Feb 17th? Or is it the last minute of the 17th?
posted by k7lim at 1:29 PM on January 5, 2009

If it follows the same pattern most FCC authorizations (or lack thereof) do, it is the first minute of the 17th.

As for "it could vary," if it does so the station will be in violation of their FCC license and be subject to rather stiff fines for broadcasting on an unlicensed frequency. All full power station licenses will expire as of the 17th of February and emissions under those licenses must stop prior to the expiration.

Make sure you're not watching a low power or translator station for your final countdown or, if you're near Mexico, not a border blaster. Simply put, watch a major network that's not PBS and has a K or W at the start of its call sign.
posted by fireoyster at 1:38 PM on January 5, 2009

Isn't it possible that stations will choose to shut down their signals in the days prior to the Feb 17? Is there anything requiring them to all coordinate their shutdown just prior to midnight of that day?
posted by knave at 1:48 PM on January 5, 2009

knave, yes, their licenses require that all stations affected by the 17 Feb shutdown remain on-air under the terms of their licenses until those expire at 12:01A on the 17th. In severe (i.e. tower fell over, major transmitter damage, etc) cases the FCC has granted license modifications to allow an early analog shutdown but these are rare and are not automatic.

Note that some areas, like Hawaii, are transitioning early (15 Jan in' case).
posted by fireoyster at 3:18 PM on January 5, 2009

Why don't you just call your local TV station and ask them exactly when they'll be shutting down the signal? I'm sure they'll get a kick out of the idea that you're having a party that revolves around this.
posted by phredgreen at 6:09 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

What an awesome idea for a party.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:54 PM on January 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

The date for this switchover is now being wrangled-over in Congress, by the way. Check the NY Times.

On Thursday President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team urged Congress to extend the Feb. 17 cutoff date for analog broadcasting, injecting new uncertainty into a switch that has confused customers and cost the government more than $1.3 billion in subsidies.

Several television networks and high-ranking Democrats supported Mr. Obama’s proposal, although it remains unclear whether a change will be made.
posted by Zambrano at 11:24 AM on January 9, 2009

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