Digital TV Conversion in the US 2009 - what to do?
November 15, 2007 8:31 AM   Subscribe

2009 Digital TV conversion. What do I need to know?

I know something is happening with television in 2009. I'll need new TVs or digital converter boxes, right? What do I need to know and how can I prepare for this change? (US). My family has A Lot Of Televisons. Not that I watch them so much, but still, there are seven TVs in the house. General pre-planning advice?
posted by rainbaby to Shopping (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is Not A Problem if you've got cable or satellite. (Not that I think paying for TV is something that anyone should do, but that's a personal choice.) You'll receive TV just like you always have. If you're in this boat, there's really going to be no new changes. I bet, however, that your cable company will try to sell you on getting a cable box for each one of those TVs you've got.

If you are pulling your signal from an antenna, the NTSC broadcasts will be shut down. You'll need some sort of ATSC tuner to pull in a signal. This is in most new TVs I've seen (Def. any HDTV will have one), and standalone tuners will be available too.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:42 AM on November 15, 2007

In a nutshell: don't do anything.

Do all of these televisions get their signal over the air? If they don't, you don't have to worry about a thing. If they do, don't worry, either. Don't do anything yet. Once the switchover is in effect, the converter boxes will likely be heavily subsidized by the government. Even if they aren't, they will probably be a lot cheaper then as opposed to now, as the electronics companies be making a lot more of them. Also, if you have to buy a TV between now and then, the major retailers are all selling TVs with ATSC tuners in them, so you'll be good for that, too.
posted by zsazsa at 8:44 AM on November 15, 2007

..the converter boxes will likely be heavily subsidized by the government.

I'm curious. Why would the government subsidise anything relating to how you watch TV?

The conversion from analogue to digital is well under way here in the UK (first UK town goes all digital), but as far as I'm aware assistance is only provided to those over 75 and who ask for it.

Apologies if this takes the thread slightly off topic.
posted by Nugget at 9:06 AM on November 15, 2007

Why would the government subsidise anything relating to how you watch TV?

Because the government mandated the change from analog to digital. When they did, they knew full well it would result in additional costs for people that have really old, non-digital-capable TV sets, who are also the people most unlikely to be able to upgrade their TV's due to the cost.
posted by pdb at 9:20 AM on November 15, 2007

See the NTIA's website regarding the coupon program for 2 free box's per household. Make sure you check out the FAQ section, and even the basics brochure (pdf). The site does a pretty good job explaining the changeover.
Best of luck.
posted by enobeet at 9:21 AM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Consumer Reports website
FCC Website (including federal coupon information, dear God it's a terrible looking site)

Why would the government subsidise anything relating to how you watch TV?

The reasoning for digital switchover is to open more channels for emergency response. That's the government's line anyway.
posted by ALongDecember at 9:22 AM on November 15, 2007

My thought? They want to make television digital to build in DRM to restrict recording. Also it'll free up airwaves that can be bought by wireless companies. I'd love to hear refutation/confirmation of this theory though.
posted by ALongDecember at 9:24 AM on November 15, 2007

Actually, a show I heard (I believe on NPR) reported that the digital deadline has actually come and gone several times, but because the market for the hardware wasn't ready (read: profitable) yet, the deadline was reset. Don't know whether this new deadline is for real or not (didn't hear the whole NPR program).

Why would the government subsidise anything relating to how you watch TV?

Because television is one of the few things that will politicize Americans. There is actually a grassroots political movement afoot here that demands more choice in cable television options. They run ads on TV, put up billboards, etc.

You'd think there'd be more substantial issues to rally behind. Or at least better things for the government to subsidize (education? health care? food for the poor?). Fucking ridiculous. But if you really want to get Americans out on the street, cut off their access to TV.


posted by Rykey at 9:49 AM on November 15, 2007

I'm curious. Why would the government subsidise anything relating to how you watch TV?

Spend $X subsidizing converters. Switching to digital frees up large swaths of bandwidth. Some of this bandwidth can be sold/leased, probably for $Y > X. Good deal all around.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:06 AM on November 15, 2007

The FCC is planning on auctioning off the spectrum freed up from analog TV. A lof of rich companies are willing to pay a lot of money for this spectrum.
posted by zsazsa at 10:16 AM on November 15, 2007

I believe that in the UK the government is paying mega bucks for the conversion campaign (as in hundreds of millions), if not in actual hardware. I think they were also considering subsidizing hardware, but costs of digital boxes have fallen through the floor in the past couple of years.. you can get one that does the job for £20 ($40) now.
posted by wackybrit at 3:34 PM on November 15, 2007

Thanks for your answers and thoughts on government subsidies guys, appreciate it.

Apologies to you rainbaby if I appear to have hijacked your thread somewhat. Hope you found an answer in there to help you.
posted by Nugget at 2:02 AM on November 16, 2007

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