As I'm sure most UAV readers know by now, analog-television broadcasting will cease on February 17, 2009, less than a year from now. On that date, all analog TVs receiving their signals via over-the-air antennas will display nothing but snow on every channel. Cable and satellite delivery to analog TVs will be unaffected—in fact, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that cable companies continue to provide analog services until at least 2012. But that still leaves some 14 million US homes in the dark on that fateful day next year.
Basically, there are three ways to avoid a screenful of snow: upgrade your TV to a digital model, subscribe to cable or satellite service, or buy a small device that converts digital broadcast signals to analog. If you cannot afford a converter, one will be appointed by the court...uh, sorry, I've been watching too much Law & Order (which actually looks pretty good on TNT HD, though I can't say the same for some of its other programs, which are obviously stretched from 4:3 to 16:9).
If you can't afford a converter, you can request a government-issued coupon good for $40 toward the cost (limit two coupons per household) by clicking here or calling (888) 388-2009. This won't completely compensate for the price of a box, which is generally expected to be between $50 and $100, but it will help those with limited resources to keep the old tube lit. (Interestingly, the coupon application does not ask about your ability to afford a converter, only whether or not all the TVs in your home subscribe to one or more pay-TV services.)
Of course, UAV readers are likely to have at least one digital display already, so this point is moot for them—or is it? What about the bedroom or kitchen TV? Even if you've got all your analog TVs covered by cable or satellite, what about your parents or other family not living with you? I hear a lot of people say their parents will be scratching their heads when the transition happens.
This leads me to wonder how our readers are preparing for DTV-Day—if not for yourself, then for your parents, grandparents, or others you know who might not have a clue about what's coming. Despite the government's best efforts—a phrase that does not instill much confidence—it is widely predicted that millions of TV watchers will be caught unaware when they try to tune into their soaps and find nothing but random cosmic radiation.
So here's my question for you: What are you doing to prepare yourself or others you know for the analog cutoff next year? I invite you to add a comment after this blog so everyone can read your response. You might very well help someone prevent the trauma of finding literally nothing on their TV. Of course, some will argue that there's nothing on as it is, but that's a topic for another day.
If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.