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PBS Panel: Digital TV Coupons Ticking Away

Jul 13, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Only 4.4 million of more than 17 million digital converter box coupons sent out by the government had been redeemed as of June 25, the latest indication that the switch to digital television signals next year will be beset by complications.
The coupons, meant to help subsidize the purchase of digital converter boxes that will keep analog TVs from being obsolete after Feb. 17, expire 90 days after they’re distributed. A limited supply of converter boxes at electronics retailers is making it difficult for some consumers to buy the necessary equipment.
With the National Telecommunications and Information Administration allotted 33.3 million coupons, the government will run out of coupons before the digital television transition on Feb. 17, 2009, speakers on a digital-TV switch panel held by PBS said.
“It’s a real balancing act because the coupons themselves are going to run out. So you say, ‘Go get your coupon now,’ but it’s got a 90 day clock on it and you might not be able to find the converter box…” John F. Wilson, senior vice president of PBS programming, said at PBS panel at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Sunday. “If you want to take advantage of the coupon, you probably should get in line now.”
Gordon Bell, vice president of engineering for KCET/Los Angeles, advised that consumers look for digital converter boxes with an analog pass-through feature, which allows analog signals to pass through to the TV set. This will allow viewers to watch analog channels prior to Feb. 17. After the digital transition, viewers will be able to use the feature to receive analog signals from low-power TV stations that don’t have to switch to all digital next year.
“It’s a very important feature that a consumer would want,” Mr. Bell said.
Viewers who use battery-powered portable TV sets will find their sets black after the digital transition. A converter box can be hooked up to a portable set, but it must be plugged into an electrical outlet, eliminating the portability of the set.
Viewers who use portable TV sets during emergencies may be comforted to hear that the government plans to sell the freed-up spectrum to allow the creation of a national emergency alert system. Spectrum will also be sold to cell-phone companies, who will probably use it to provide new features and higher quality video, Mr. Wilson noted.
(Editor: Baumann)
For exclusive video, breaking news and blogs from the TCA summer tour, visit TVWeek.com’s TCA Navigator page.

48 Comments

  1. Consumer Reports has rated some of the available converter boxes at:
    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/electronics-computers/televisions/digital-tv-converter/ratings/dtv-converter-boxes-ratings.htm
    As Far as I know right now, the $40 coupons can only be used on 16 brands of converter boxes with the “analog pass-through” feature: APEX DT250, Apex DT500, CASTi CAX-02, DIGITAL STREAM DSP7700T, DIGITAL STREAM DTX9950, DIGITAL STREAM DX8700, DISH Network DTVPal, Jiuzhou DTT9001, Magnavox TB-100MG9, Microprose MPI-500, Philco TB100HH9, Philco TB150HH9, RCA DTA800B1, Skardin DTR-0727L, TATUNG TDB3001 and Venturer STB7766G1. There may be more.
    It is true that if you live very close to the transition towers, a wire coat hanger can pick up some broadcast signals and higher is better, outdoor is the best. And viewers should certainly try their old antenna first. It’s also true that any of these older antennas will pick up some signals, maybe all the broadcast signals a viewer wants to receive, depending on their location. If they’re getting all the OTA channels they want, than they’re good to go.
    Most TV consumers think of antennas as low-tech devices, but there is more behind some of the newer antenna designs than just bent metal and plastic. Many of the TV antenna designs in use and on the market today such as the Yagi and rabbit ears you mentioned have technology roots going back 30 to 50 years or more.
    The switch to digital broadcasts however is bringing consumers back to Off-Air reception and the increasing sales are providing the motivation and investments necessary to develop new models and new technology. The fact that most designs on the market now were developed prior to the advent of much of the computer technology, software and algorithms in common use today has left open numerous avenues to improve upon tried and true designs and develop new ones. Additionally, recent regulations and standards are opening new doors for antenna engineers to develop smaller antennas with improved performance and aesthetics.
    While it’s correct that antennas can’t tell the difference between analog and digital signals, there are definitely certain models which have higher DTV batting averages than others. Not all antennas are equally suited for DTV. A percentage of viewers will require something a little more tailored for DTV reception.
    The correct antenna, installed and aimed properly, unimpeded by obstacles such as building, hills, trees, etc. will receive desired local stations in range it’s aimed at. And the new antennas, working with the newer generation digital ATSC chips will mitigate multi-path (bounced signals), including multi-cast programming adding several additional local off-air programs and several in HD almost completely uncompressed, not available from cable or satellite.
    Some viewers may even be able to receive out-of-town channels, carrying blacked out sports programs or network broadcasts not available in their home town. As an added benefit, an OTA antenna provides reception for second sets in homes not wired for whole-house signal distribution.
    While cable and satellite program providers will continue to serve the great majority of homes as the primary signal source, missing HD local reception, compression issues, higher costs, billing add-ons, service outages, contact difficulties, in-home service waits and no shows have left many of these subscribers looking to OTA antennas as a good alternatives.
    Depending on the level of desire to receive all the broadcast signals available free, considering the investment in HDTV entertainment already made by many viewers, shouldn’t they consider up-grading to a new digital OTA antenna or adding one to their reception options?
    To check out free OTA options, viewers can go to antennapoint.com to easily locate the broadcast stations within range in Cleveland and other OTA helpful information.

  2. please send me $40 COUPON

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  4. PLEASE SEND ME THE COUPONS FOR THE DIGITAL TO ANALOG CONVERTER AND THE DIGITAL TV ANTENNA.

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