Black: Coming to a TV Screen Near You

Dennis Faas's picture

A year from now, your television could be defunct. If you're one of the 21 million Americans that the Government Accounting Office says have an analog TV the 17th of February 2009 could be an awful boring day.  That's when analog TV signals will no longer be broadcast. (Source:

The surprising fact, according to the Communications and Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), is that most people are unaware of the impending stoppage. Many seem to think that all the advertising and promotion of Digital TV is simply a merchandising ploy. In fact, many people don't even know whether their TV is analog or digital. (hint: if it was purchased before 1998, or in the manual describes the tuner as "NTSC", chances are it's analog)

The driver behind the digital TV changeover is the government. The broadcast spectrum for digital TV was granted in 1996 under the condition that the existing analog broadcast spectrum would be released this coming year. Additionally, broadcasters must continue to deliver both analog and digital programming over the new spectrum for the following three years. The government will then auction off the old spectrum for other uses for an estimated $10 billion. A portion of that will be used to subsidize the consumer's switchover to digital TV. (Source:

Alternatives are available but not necessarily inexpensive. The government will be providing coupons to consumers to discount the cost of converter boxes by $40. However, the consumer will still have to pay an estimated $50 to $75 for the conversion box after the coupon. Nonetheless, in 2012, broadcasters may cease airing of analog programming.

Right now, finding a place to buy the converters is not easy. The government has set up a website ( to help consumers locate sources of converters and to obtain the $40 coupon. Unfortunately, the government is not providing coupons to purchase digital TVs. DTV prices remain at a premium.

There are 21 million TV owners that are soon going to be faced with a dilemma: either get a converter, a new digital TV, or upgrade to cable. If you're planning a TV purchase this year, make sure it has an ATSC tuner.

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