DTV transition: What does it mean for you?

Monday, February 09, 2009


Congress recently passed the DTV Delay Act, which extends the deadline for full-power broadcast TV stations to complete the DTV transition from Feb. 17, 2009, to June 12, 2009. This should matter to you only if you use use an over-the-air antenna to get your TV signal—subscribers to a paid service such as cable or satellite TV will not be affected.

You need to know:

  • This law does not change the 90-day expiration date on existing DTV converter box coupons. These coupons are worth $40 off the purchase of a converter box. If you use an over-the-air antenna to get your TV signal, and you need to use the coupon, pay attention to the expiration date. Use your coupon now if you need it.
  • The U.S. government has set aside $650 million in the economic stimulus package for converter box coupons. The 4 million households on the waiting list should start to receive the coupons they requested in mid March. If you had a coupon that has expired, or you have never requested a DTV converter box coupon, you can order one at or call 888-388-2009.
  • You can buy a converter box at without a coupon. The boxes cost about $60-$75 each. You don't need a coupon to buy one - most stores where TVs are sold have them now.
  • If you already requested a DTV converter box coupon and you don't plan to use it, give it to a friend or family member who gets TV using an over-the-air antenna.

Despite the law passed by Congress, many stations will end analog broadcasts on Feb. 17 as originally planned—or end them sometime before June 12. Broadcast stations are required to notify their viewers before shutting off their analog channels. These stations may play informational messages in analog for a while to educate consumers about the need for a DTV converter box. But your TV will go dark if analog broadcasts of your favorite channels end and you do not have a DTV converter box hooked up!

Congress did not require stations to continue broadcasting in analog after Feb. 17, and stations may choose to complete their transition, and stop broadcasting in analog, any time before June 12th.

If you have one or more analog televisions that receive free over-the-air TV programming with an outdoor antenna or “rabbit ears” on the TV, Consumer Action suggests that you prepare your TV now by purchasing a converter box, installing it, and ensuring that you can receive the digital channels in your area before the analog channels are shut off.

If you do not want to buy a converter box for your old analog TV, you can: 1) Buy a digital television (a TV with a built-in digital tuner); OR 2) Sign up for paid cable or satellite TV service.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a web site with more information about the DTV transition at You can email the FCC at [email protected]. The FCC can be reached by telephone at 888-225-5322. The FCC will handle calls in some languages besides English.

If you have a converter box but you are not getting a good picture, visit the FCC page providing instructions on how to fix your reception.




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