Monday, February 9, 2009

Digital TV Delay

It looks like Congress has agreed to postpone the switch off date for analog TV from February 17th until June 12th, 2009. Unless you've been living in a cave, you would know that is the date when all regular television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting analog TV signals and switch exclusively to digital broadcasting. Presumably this nearly four month delay is meant to reduce confusion whenever the digital switchover occurs. But the truth is that there will be confusion regardless of when the switch is made.

Just look at the current wording on the FCC website about when exactly the transition to digital-only TV will be:

On Feb. 17, some full-power broadcast television stations in the United States may stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital. The remaining stations may stop broadcasting analog sometime between March 14 and June 12.

That sounds pretty wishy-washy to me... If I interpret this correctly, even the folks over at the FCC don't have a clue when the transistion date is going to be.

The switch to digital TV is not as simple as just turning off analog TV broadcasts. Currently, TV broadcasts are received on channels 2-69. After the digital transition is complete channels 52-69 will be reallocated for other uses. In Silicon Valley, where I live, the digital TV station KTEH is on channel 54-1. KTEH is really broadcast on digital channel 50, but shows up as 54-1 through a process known as virtual channel numbering. The analog channel 54 will disappear after the DTV transition.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, KGO broadcasts analog on channel 7, and digital on channel 24. After switching off the analog channel, they will return the digital broadcast to channel 7. More complex is the case of KTVU which broadcasts analog on Channel 2, and digital on channel 56. After the switch off, they will broadcast on channel 44. Channel 44 is currently used by KBCW (the old KBHK). For obvious reasons KBCW needs to shutdown their analog transmitter before KTVU can take over this channel. So, is this confusing enough for you?

If you own a DTV tuner, what this means is that you may need to re-scan for channels after the switchover. I used to tell people that you could do that on February 18th, but now you'll have to wait until June 13th to be safe. I do own a DTV converter box, but I also bought a DVD/VCR recorder with a built-in digital tuner. I guess that I will have to rescan the channels sometime (as according to the FCC) possibly between March 14th and June 12th. But, it seems that the FCC who has the last word on these matters, aren't themselves sure of the exact date.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If the government can't do non essential programs like this one on time, I surely don't want them running our health care programs.