FCC Wants Trial Run on Digital Switch

Mar 6, 2008  •  Post A Comment

One in 10 without a TV signal is too many.
That’s what Federal Communications Commission officials said this week when the agency discussed a possible trial run in advance of the nationwide switch to digital broadcasting from analog in February.
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, in a March 3 letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, suggested that some households participate in a test run by being allowed to volunteer to be switched to a digital signal before the official Feb. 17 transition date.
“Real-world experience is an extremely important step,” wrote Mr. Copps, referring to the fact that the United Kingdom will have phased in digital broadcasting over five years when it completes the transition in 2012. “Our single transition date does not afford us the luxury of a built-in learning curve. We have one chance to get this right.”
Mr. Martin, in a same-day response, said he liked the idea of voluntary testing, though he acknowledged “technical and practical challenges” in creating digital-broadcast test markets.
The request follows a report last month saying that one in 10 households will lose TV broadcasts when the transition to all-digital broadcasting takes place. About 13 million U.S. households—equal to the combined populations of California and Oregon—have television sets that can process only analog signals, Nielsen said last month.
That number may shrink, given that about three-quarters of Americans are aware of the digital switch, up from 41% in 2006, said Consumer Electronics Association Chief Executive Officer Gary Shapiro in a speech last week.
“Consumers are increasingly aware of the transition and what, if anything, they need to do in order to continue enjoying free, over-the-air television,” Shapiro said.
Additionally, the price of producing liquid-crystal display televisions has dropped, allowing more people to be able to afford flat-screen, high-definition television sets. Customers bought 20.5 million LCD sets last year, up 85% from 2006, according to research firm Pacific Media Associates.
As it stands, though, many U.S. customers will lose programming immediately, including more than one out of six Latino households, Nielsen said last month. About 22% of Portland, Ore., residents receive over-the-air analog signals, making the city the least prepared in the U.S. for the switchover.
“The change to all-digital broadcasting is the most significant change in the history of television, because unlike other advances such as color, older television sets will no longer be able to receive television signals without a converter,” Nielsen Senior Manager Eric Rossi said last month.


  1. finally, i’m so tired of seeing digital transitions, tech launches go live without a “trial run”. finally someone thinking things through . . .

  2. Conversations I have heard in video stores indicate that most viewers believe that ALL broadcast television will end in 2009 and they have to go Cable or Satellite. The TV salesmen are no better.
    There is alot of misunderstanding about what is going to happen next year, and the FCC does not seem to understand this. Many do not understand that there will still be over-the-air broadcasts, they will just be digital.
    Stations are bound to see their ratings drop as viewers can no longer see their analog signals.

  3. A couple of numbers.
    Copps is wrong the UK will have phased in their digital conversion from 2004 till 2012 not 5 years as Copps says but 8 years.
    And the UK already has consumers who are very EDUCATED on their digital transition. SO educated that they have FREELY purchased 70 million over the air receivers.
    14 million of the UK’s 24.7 million households have at least ONE over the air DTV receiver. NO government MANDATE! NO SUBSIDY of $1.5Billion.
    Literally HUNDREDS of different receivers to choose from.
    Why the difference? Because the FCC and Congress are ignorant of and choose to remain ignorant of the technology they are foisting on US consumers.
    The US had the WORST digital TV modulation in the world which is the main reason that receiver producers, retailers and even broadcasters have done little to NOTHING since the start of the US digital transition almost TEN years ago.
    Other than having the WORST digital modulation in the world the US also allows for a major CONFLICT of interest. Broadcasters who are given FREE use of the spectrum they use also have been given MUST CARRY by law rights that force cable to carry their programming. They now are forcing cable to pay that means cable subscribers to PAY for the same content they are by law required to deliver FREE OVER THE AIR.
    That means that every household the uses an antenna to receiver FREE over the air content represents a LOSS of revenue for broadcasters. WHY would they want to promote viewers to use over the air receivers?
    Now you have your answer to why the US has the WORST digital TV modulation in the world and why no one is promoting it and very VERY few will use it.

  4. Another example of Big Brother assuming the vast unwashed multitudes are unable to do anything for themselves. They can stop the analog today, for all I care.
    But seriously, with all the publicity lately, and the availability of practically ‘free’ converters, let the plan proceed with no more red herrings across it’s path.

  5. A Few things:
    1) LPTV stations ARE going to be able to be recieved.
    2) Canadian bordered stations are also recievable. AKA., Any Broadcast station that begins with a “C”, such as “CBET-TV”.
    3) Most of “Best”, “Shack” and “Circuit” stores are there to make money, in any inscrupulous way. Remember there is no other use for “omnidirectional antenna, made for RV’s…. or so I was told. Best analog antenna I ever had. But “shack” told me it wouldnt work and I was taking a chance in buying it.
    4) As Discussed yesterday, the day before, and other times on this DTV issue, not all issues are well known, educated, debated, etc. There is way too much left to do, before a mandatory switch begins.
    5) We know nothing on who is selecting the “testees” of this test. What income groups, locations, their signal inhibiting factors, cable or satellite vs broadcast, will be selected. I have seen nothing on this. Nothing yet is “source alpha”, you insiders know what this is. The only thing I’m seeing is “burn”. this is comparing it to Vid Prod modes, if you don’t understand.
    6) Who exactly is in the pool, and how do they get to be in the pool to be testees? What are they paid or compensated to participate? Will they come from Neilson? Will They come from FCC letters (this would include me)?
    7) What is the exact purpose and what is to be done due to results? Does this mean DTV signals will be 10% more as they did with HD radio? We need to know more to even think much of this.
    Basicly, we know too little at thid point. Nothing seems to be publicly outlined. That makes me quite concerned, since I’m paying for this, through my tax dollars. But who am I? I’m just a simple concerned and a thinking US tax payer.

  6. I’m sick of all this talk about a “switch”. It’s not like everyone is going to turn off their analog transmitters and turn on their digital ones in one day.
    Digital signals are already being broadcast and anyone with a ATSC tuner in their TVs or a ATSC box can test their reception of digital signals. So, we don’t need a test before the digital “launch”, digital signals have already been “launched.”
    About 13 million U.S. households—equal to the combined populations of California and Oregon—have television sets that can process only analog signals, Nielsen said last month.
    I this is a misleading statistic. I have television sets that only process analog signals. Not only am I ready for analog shutoff, I can’t wait for it, and neither can the TV stations I used to work for – $10,000 less on the electric bill.

  7. I think that most are missing some important facts. Many people have multiple televisions, not to mention dvd recorders and yes, vhs recorders that have only analog tuners in them. And what about those of us who have purchased portable, handheld televisions for use at work or in emergencies? Most people I know have many tv sets, not just a couple and no, no everyone is on cable or satellite. So, are they not entitled to be able to use all of the equipment they paid their hard earned dollars for? There is also the actual fact that the signal strength of the digital broadcasts will be much lower as a result of being broadcast at much higher frequencies than many of the traditional channels have been, which are in the VHF spectrum. There are many who still live in rural areas that don’t rely on satellite and have no access to cable who won’t be able to reliably receive digial channels.
    I think this whole thing was very poorly thought out and the whole decision was based on realizing huge profits for select industries (mostly out of this country) plus the government itself who gets to auction off the frequencies to other businesses. Those businesses are just dying to have more room for their commercial use that will put more dollars in their pockets.
    It should have been up to the broadcasters to determine when they could transistion over to digital transmissions as they wouldn’t dare to loose all of the adverstising dollars if they abandoned too many viewers. At the very least, there should have been a 10-year period to prepare everyone to convert, given the fact that most televisions will last 8-10 years with normal use anyway and the old technology items such as vhs recorders and dvd recorders with analog tuners could be used long enough to get most of the benefit of their useful life.
    I just don’t see how this could have happened the way it did and why the people haven’t figured out that they have been duped into spending a lot of useless money on a schedule that they had no control over. I am surprised that there hasn’t been some type of successful class action to prevent this from happening. Maybe many of you, like I am, are past the point of having several children at home who all had their own televisions and vcr recorders, in addition to what I had in my room, what was in the tv room, in the kitchen plus in the game room. But I haven’t forgotten what it was like and what the investment cost to have all of those rooms equipped such as they were. And guess what? I still have most every room equipped that way now, so what good will two convertors do me? I think many are in the same situation as I am and it will be a huge financial burden to have to replace everything with digital receivers. Actually, I won’t be able to do that so I guess I will just have to do without what I have now.
    I ask that all who read this to please consider what is going on here and at least voice your opinion if you agree with what I and others have tried to explain. No doubt that digital transmission will be the standard one day and it should be for a number of reasons. It just shouldn’t be forced on us within a 3-year period as it has without even knowing if it will even provide the same level of viewing opportunities as we have all enjoyed in the past. Thanks for readin such a long post…..

  8. OTA TV reception is nearly obsolete already, with the rise of Bit Torrent’s popularity. Why watch snow, with no pause or rewind button, when I can get any show I want to watch, whenever I want, a season at a time. Anyhow, where are these nearly free Set Top Boxes? If they really are nearly free I might just invest a few bucks to get a better picture from the Canadian station across the river when they finally start up their HD/DTV broadcasting in a few years.

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