Sunday, February 17, 2008

Digital TV Converter Box Program

As previously reported on February 18, 2009 television stations in the U.S. will turn off their old-technology analog signals and broadcast only in a digital format. At that time anyone who owns an older television that gets its signal via antenna will need a converter box in order to receive the digital transmissions.

The government has set aside millions of dollars to help those households that need assistance with the change over. Each household is eligible for two coupons, regardless of whether they have pay-television service or not. To request a coupon apply online at or call the 24-hour hotline, 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009).

When talking about digital TV converters, usually means a basic device that attaches to your analog TV set, allowing it to receive digital over-the-air programs using your existing antenna. These are the digital-to-analog converter boxes (or “digital TV adapters”). The expected price is about $40 to $70, meaning with the coupon you may still need to cover some of the cost. Here is a full list of Coupon Eligible Converter Boxes (CECB).

How to tell if you need a DTV Converter

As of March 1, 2007, all television receivers shipped in interstate commerce or imported into the United States must contain a digital tuner. In addition, effective May 25, 2007, the Commission required sellers of television receiving equipment that does not include a digital tuner to disclose at the point-of-sale that such devices include only an analog tuner, and therefore will require a digital-to-analog converter box to receive over-the-air broadcast television after the transition date.

As for how to determine whether your television equipment purchased prior to May 25, 2007 is a DTV, many DTVs and digital television equipment will have labels or markings on them, or statements in the informational materials that came with them, to indicate that they contain digital tuners. These labels or markings may contain the words “Integrated Digital Tuner” or “Digital Tuner Built-In.” “Receiver” may be substituted for “Tuner,” and “DTV,” “ATSC,” or “HDTV” (high definition television) may be substituted for “Digital.” If your television equipment contains any of these labels or markings, you should be able to view digital over-the-air programming without the need for a digital-to-analog converter box. (Remember, you do not need an HDTV to view free over-the-air digital programming. As long as your television equipment contains a digital tuner, you can view over-the-air digital. An HDTV is only necessary if you want to view digital programming in “high definition.”)

Many newer DVD recorders and other TV equipment come with built in DTV tuners. So make sure to check all your components before you go out and buy a convert box as you may not need one!

You should also check the manual or any other materials that came with your television equipment in order to determine whether it contains a digital tuner.

If your television set is labeled as a “Digital Monitor” or “HDTV Monitor,” or as “Digital Ready” or “HDTV Ready,” this does not mean it actually contains a digital tuner. Thus, you still will likely need a separate set-top box which contains a tuner in order to view programs in the new digital TV transmission standard (which includes HDTV formats) on such a set.

Over-the-air digital set-top boxes can be purchased at retail stores. Cable and satellite TV providers also sell or lease digital set-top boxes for their specific services. (Note: the digital set-top box described here is not the same as the NTIA program digital-to-analog converter box, used to convert free over-the-air digital broadcasts for viewing on an analog TV set.)

If your television set is labeled as “analog” or “NTSC,” but is NOT labeled as containing a digital tuner, it contains an analog tuner only.

If you cannot determine whether your television set or other television equipment contains a digital tuner, you are advised to check your equipment for the manufacturer name and model number, and then contact your consumer electronics retailer, or the manufacturer, to determine whether it contains a digital tuner. This information also may be available online through the manufacturer’s website.

Because most broadcast stations in all U.S. television markets are already broadcasting in digital, consumers are further advised to contact their local broadcast stations to determine the channel numbers on which the stations are broadcasting digital programming. Consumers should then ensure that their televisions are set up to receive over-the-air programming (as distinguished from the signals of a paid provider such as cable or satellite TV service), and then tune to the over-the-air digital channels to see if they can receive the digital broadcast programming.

Do I need a new Antenna for DTV?

The antenna you've been using for watching analog TV over the air can also be used for digital TV, including HDTV. Viewers in some areas, however, will find that a better antenna—a rooftop one, perhaps—is needed to ensure reliable digital TV reception.

Digital TV reception differs from analog: Essentially, you either get a perfect digital signal for a particular channel, or nothing at all. It’s what’s known as a “cliff effect.” You will either find yourself at the very peak of reception capability or—less happily—in the deepest ditch. Which means you won't get the channel at all.

Do I Receive Digital Broadcasts If I Subscribe To Cable Or Satellite?

If you receive cable or satellite television service, contact your cable or satellite provider about any additional components, such as a digital set-top box, that you may need to watch digital broadcast programming. If you use the older style boxes then no you aren't receiving digital TV and you'll more than likely need to upgrade.

Will DTV work with my VCR, DVD Player, Camcorder, Video Games?

VCRs, DVD players, camcorders and video games will continue to work, even if they are only analog-capable. However they may not provide digital-quality picture and sound. Newer components may come with a digital tuner built in so check your owner manual or check the manufacturers site for more information.

Recent Updates
Important Information about Coupon Distribution from

TV Converter Box Coupons are plastic cards that look like gift cards. They will be:
  • mailed to households with approved applications, starting in late February.

  • sent based on the date of application, in the order in which the applications were received.

  • mailed on a staggered basis – not all at once.

  • delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

Coupons cannot be printed or downloaded from the Program Website and are not available to pick up at retail locations.

Remember to call ahead to confirm availability of coupon-eligible converter boxes at the store on the day you plan to shop.

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