About

Mary Robinson is all about real-world information on the switch to digital television signals. The success of the DTV switch will depend on regular folks understanding new technology and getting it running in their homes. Ms. Robinson is weighing in on those nitty-gritty details, sharing her enthusiasm for TV-signal technology with those who are less technically inclined. She’s developed an expertise through years of hands-on experimentation, pulling in signals from the rooftop of her Texas home. Now she’s a resource for consumers struggling with the digital switch. We discovered Mary right here on TVWeek.com, where she reliably dispensed information in the comments section of this story, First Digital TV Converter Box Wins Government Approval about the digital switch. Let’s keep the conversation rolling!

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January 30, 2009

Changes to Expect, Delay or No Delay

The mandated date for digital-only broadcasting is just a little over two weeks away, and it may or not be delayed from the current date of Feb. 17 to June 12. Regardless of whether or not the date is moved back, there may be some changes that are going to occur at one or more of your local stations.

The legislation filed to delay the transition date contains language that would allow television stations to go ahead and end analog broadcasting as they see fit. This would give stations that need to move from temporary digital channels the authority they need to start broadcasting on their final allotted digital channels.

I would not be surprised to learn that the majority of station owners and operators will decide to exercise this option. For several months now, stations' budgets have factored in an end to the analog broadcasts, and no money was allocated for continued utility costs associated with continuing to keep both digital and analog transmitters running. This may or may not affect your reception of one or more of your local stations.

If a station in your area is making the move from a temporary channel to their final DTV allotted channel, it will become necessary to program the new channel into your converter box, digital television or HDTV.

This can be accomplished in one of four ways.

First, a complete re-scan of channels can be performed. Beware, however, that this function erases ALL of the channels stored in the tuner's memory, and replaces them with the channels it picks up while doing the re-scan. If you receive stations from different directions, or you had a hard time locking in some channels, this could prove to be problematic.

The second way this can be done is to do what is called an "Easy Add" scan. Not all devices have this capability. Just go to the menu, and if this application can be accessed, it looks for new channels and adds them to the memory. Very simple and very easy, if your device facilitates this function.

Another way to achieve the reception of the new channel is go in and access the tuner manually. Most menus do not have an option for this task. My Zenith digital-to-analog converter box facilitates this function. There is usually a way to add the new channel and delete the former channel from the memory. The manual tuner feature is also a good way to aim your antenna.

The fourth way that I know to add a new channel is to go into the menu and manually add the new channel. I find this option quite cumbersome and frustrating. The only converter box that I have had experience with that had no other way than this to add new channels was the Magnavox from Wal-mart.

When trying to add a new channel, both by entering the virtual channel number or the true RF channel, the box would not recognize it and would fail to enter the channel in the memory. The Magnavox customer service number was totally useless. Good luck if you have one of these boxes.

So if you find that at some point in the near future you cannot receive a channel that was dependable before, then it may well be that the station has switched channels, and one of these tasks needs to be performed.

Here are a handful of stations that I know will "Flash Cut" (switch channels) on or near Feb. 17, 2009, despite a potential extension of the mandated transition date:

On Feb. 17
Baton Rouge, La. WGMB/WVLA/WBRL/KZUP
Shreveport, La. KSHV/KMSS
Alexandria, La./Natchez Ms. WNTZ
Lafayette, La. KADN

Soon after Feb. 17
Beaumont, Tx. KBMT (KBMT has asked for about 30 to 45 days to make the switch)

September 21, 2007

First Digital TV Converter Box Wins Government Approval

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration has issued its first approval of a digital-to-analog converter box, the device that will allow analog set owners to continue to watch free over-the-air broadcast TV after the national switch to digital-only broadcasting Feb. 17, 2009.

Manufacturer Digital Streams announced Friday that two models of its approved converter box will be available in stores early next year for a suggested retail price of $69.99.

The NTIA, a division of the Commerce Department division, is overseeing a federally funded program that will make available to qualified TV households coupons worth $40 toward the purchase of the converter box. The coupons will be available starting in January.

The Digital Stream boxes measure about 7 by 4 by 1.5 inches.

The company said it plans to unveil a comprehensive retailer/partner and customer-support plan for the converters, including telephone technical support for consumers.

—Michele Greppi