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Frequently Asked Questions

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By law, full-power television stations nationwide must end their analog broadcasts and begin broadcasting exclusively in a digital format after June 12, 2009. While the benefits of DTV are remarkable, millions of households that receive broadcast TV through antennas risk losing reception unless they upgrade and take the steps to receive a digital signal. Read our Frequently Asked Questions below for more information about how you can prepare for the switch to DTV.

About the DTV Transition

What is digital television (DTV)?

Digital television (DTV) is a new type of broadcasting technology that is transforming television as we know it. By transmitting information as "data bits" (like a computer) to create a TV set's picture and sound, a digital broadcaster can carry far more information than what analog broadcast technology currently allows. The difference between analog and digital broadcasting is similar to that between compact discs and cassette tapes.

Digital TV offers a better viewing experience with vastly improved picture and sound quality. DTV is also more efficient than analog TV technology, so broadcasters will be able to produce additional channels of programming using digital broadcasting technology.

What is analog television?

Analog television service is the traditional method of transmitting TV signals and has been the standard broadcast technology since the inception of television. Analog television service isn't as efficient as DTV. It uses up much more valuable spectrum that-once the DTV transition is completed-will be used for other purposes. Remaining spectrum will be auctioned off for the production of new services.

Analog broadcasting will continue until the transition deadline, which is set for June 12, 2009. Most television stations will continue broadcasting their programming in both analog and digital signals until then.

How do I know whether my TV set is analog or digital?

Every TV set made before 1998 was a traditional "analog" television. If you bought a big-screen, projection TV between 1998 and 2004, there is a chance it has a built-in digital tuner inside. Before 2004, only a limited percentage of projection TV sets (generally sets that are 42 inches in diameter or larger) included digital tuners.

If you bought a new TV set since 2004, there is a high likelihood that it has a built-in digital tuner. In 2004, popular electronics stores started selling many TV sets with built-in digital tuners that will work after June 12, 2009.

Using your TV set manufacturer name and model number, search this database to find out if your TV set has a digital tuner.

Why is America switching to DTV?

An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for other services. Also, some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies, so they can provide consumers with more advanced wireless services, such as wireless broadband.

Consumers also benefit, because digital broadcasting allows stations to offer improved picture and sound quality. Digital is much more efficient than analog. For example, rather than being limited to providing one analog program, a broadcaster is able to offer a super-sharp "high definition" (HD) digital program or multiple "standard definition" (SD) digital programs simultaneously through a process called "multicasting."

What is multicasting?

Using the same amount of spectrum required for one analog program, multicasting allows broadcast stations to offer several channels of digital programming at the same time. For example, a station broadcasting in analog on channel 7 is only able to offer viewers one program. However, a station broadcasting in digital on channel 7 can offer viewers a digital program on channel 7-1, a second digital program on channel 7-2, a third digital program on channel 7-3, and so on. This means viewers get more programming choices.

What do I need to do to be ready for the end of analog TV broadcasting?

Preparing for the DTV transition is easy and requires you to take one of three steps by June 12, 2009:

  • 1. Purchase a digital-to-analog converter box that plugs into your existing TV set. The boxes, which cost between $40-70, are now available for purchase at electronics retailers nationwide. Households can request up to two $40 coupons towards the purchase of converter boxes that will allow you to continue watching free "over-the-air" television on an analog set. You can apply for coupons at www.DTV2009.gov or call 1-888-DTV-2009.
  • 2. Purchase a new television set with a built-in digital tuner.
  • 3. Subscribe to cable, satellite or other pay TV service that carries the local broadcast stations you want.

Taking one of these steps ensures that "over-the-air" television consumers will continue to receive programming.

I live in a community that has translator and low-power television service. Do I need to take action before June 12, 2009?

Translator and low-power television stations are not required to go all-digital after June 12, 2009. To continue receiving free over-the-air programming provided by these stations using an antenna, you have a few options. You can either purchase a converter box that has the analog pass-through feature or an antenna "splitter," a device that sends signals to your existing TV set and your converter box without the analog capability. But the best way to watch both types of programming is with a new TV set that has an analog and digital tuner. For more information about low-power stations, visit www.LPTVAnswers.com.

Do I have to wait until after June 12, 2009 to watch DTV?

No, in many areas, digital television is available now. If you watch over-the-air television today, using a DTV receiver will allow you to access most or all of your local stations' digital signals. This includes high definition and multicast programming from your local stations. Visit www.antennaweb.org to determine which antenna type best meets your needs and to learn which stations are already broadcasting in digital. Or check your local program listings and local TV stations to find out more about DTV now available.

What is being done to help the elderly, etc. prepare for the transition?

Research shows that minorities, low-income families, the elderly and people living in rural areas will be among the most disproportionately affected by the transition. NAB is a founding member of the DTV Transition Coalition, which now includes more than 220 organizations nationwide that are reaching out to their local communities, particularly to those most vulnerable. The coalition is extremely diverse. Organizations such as AARP, American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Council on Aging and many others are helping amplify our education efforts. To learn more, visit www.dtvtransition.org.

Many blind and visually impaired people rely on radios that receive TV audio bands. After the transition, those radios won't be able to receive TV broadcasts. How is this being addressed?

We're not aware of anyone working on an adapter for this. One option is you could buy a digital converter box and connect just the audio output to an auxiliary input on a radio that has such an input. However, this is a rather cumbersome arrangement, at least for the non-visually impaired, since most converter boxes don't have a display that shows what channel you are tuned to, and navigation would be limited solely to channel up and down keys.

I'm a cable customer. Will I be affected by the transition?

Television sets connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service will not require a converter box. Cable and satellite subscribers should check with their providers before June 12, 2009, to see how they are handling the transition.

Do cable customers with analog TV sets have to buy or rent a set-top box (converter box) from their cable company? If so, how much will it cost?

First, it's important to know that the June 12, 2009 deadline for the digital television transition only applies to full-power broadcast stations. The government does not require cable companies to transition their systems to digital. They can continue to deliver channels to their customers using analog signals. Actually, cable companies are required under FCC rules to offer local broadcast stations to their customers in analog, as long as they offer any analog service. This requirement will continue for at least three years after June 12, 2009. The FCC will decide in 2011 whether the requirement should be extended beyond June 12, 2012. This means that customers who receive analog cable service (without a cable set-top box) will be able to continue doing so.

Can I keep my older analog TV set after June 12, 2009?

Yes. A digital-to-analog converter box will allow you to continue using your existing analog TV set to watch over-the-air digital programming. If your analog set is hooked up to a subscription service, such as cable or satellite TV, it should continue to function as before. Analog sets should also continue working with gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players and similar products that you use now. 

Converter Boxes

What is a TV converter box?

A TV converter box is a stand-alone device that allows your antenna to receive and convert digital signals into a format analog television sets can display. This newly designed product is now available in stores nationwide. A TV converter box is a one-time purchase and costs between $40 and $70. Click here for more information about converter boxes.

How do I install a TV converter box?

Depending on your TV, converter boxes plug into either the back or front of the set. You will still need an antenna, which works with the TV converter box. Each TV converter box comes with installation instructions from the manufacturer. A generic "Quick Start Guide" and installation video are available at www.digitaltips.org.

How much do I have to pay for a TV converter box?

TV converter boxes are now available in retail stores nationwide. They cost between $40 and $70. The federal government is giving every U.S. household up to two $40 coupons to help pay for the cost of the converter box. Click here for more information about the converter box coupon program.

Where can I purchase a converter box?

Electronics retailers nationwide are selling TV converter boxes in their stores, online and by telephone. Once the coupons arrive by mail, consumers will be provided a list of nearby participating retailers.

What is meant by an "eligible" TV converter box?

TV converter box models must meet technical and performance standards determined by the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in order to qualify for the coupon program. Click here for a list of converter boxes with make and model numbers that are eligible for purchase with the coupon.

Does someone have to come to my home to install the converter box?

No, you should be able to install the converter box yourself using the instructions provided by the manufacturer. For specific questions, call the manufacturer's technical support hotline or ask your local retailer.

How big is the converter box?

Converter boxes are about the size of a paperback book. Most will fit on top of a small to medium-sized TV set.

Do I need to purchase a TV converter box that is the same brand as my TV?

No, the brand of converter box can be different from that of your TV set.

Can I hook up more than one TV set and video recorder to a single digital-to-analog converter box?

No, you will need one digital-to-analog converter box for each TV set or other device (such as a VCR) that only has an analog tuner.

How come pass-through boxes aren't labeled as such?

To our knowledge, the government permits manufacturers, not retailers, to determine the converter box packaging. Major suppliers are planning to produce more models that allow analog pass-through this summer, so hopefully by then, retailers will carry some pass-through boxes.

Will I receive closed captioning through a converter box?

Yes. Coupon-eligible converter box manufacturers are required to provide closed captioning for display on your television, but the features provided vary by box. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has produced a guide that lists selected features, including closed captioning, for a number of converter boxes. The guide is updated periodically as new converter boxes become available.

After plugging in my converter box, I see black or gray bars on the sides or all the way around my picture. Why doesn't the picture fill up the TV screen?

Simply put, your converter box may be having trouble determining the shape of the picture and how to best display it on your existing TV set. Traditional analog TV sets have a square-shaped screen, and some digital programming is still being produced in this shape, which should fill the screen on your TV. However, many digital programs are now produced with widescreen pictures intended for viewing on digital TV sets with wider screens. It is due to these differences in picture shape that creates bars around your picture.

You can remove or reduce the size of the bars by using a button on the converter box remote control that changes the way a picture is displayed. Find the button marked "zoom" or "aspect ratio," and keep pressing it until the picture looks right. You may need to change the setting for different programs. Please note that widescreen programs are meant to have bars on the top and bottom when viewed on a square-shaped screen, but no programs should have bars all the way around the picture.

After installing my converter box, I lost some of the channels I used to get. What should I do?

After hooking up a converter box to your TV set, or installing a new digital TV set, you will need to scan (also known as "auto-tune") for new channels to make sure you receive all of the digital stations broadcasting in your area. While some boxes do this automatically, you may need to select scan manually.

Because some digital stations that are already on air are moving to different channel numbers after the DTV transition, you may need to rescan again after June 12, 2009, to ensure that you receive all of the digital stations broadcasting in your area.

For what types of situations do I need to rescan?

You should rescan your converter box or TV set for channels when installing equipment for the first time, after repositioning or moving an antenna around and once again after February 17, 2009. Since some digital stations are still coming on air, you may want to consider rescanning on a periodic basis to get all of the digital programming available. 

Coupon Program

What is the TV converter box coupon program?

Congress created a TV converter box coupon program for households that want to continue using their analog TV sets after June 12, 2009. The program allows U.S. households to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40, which can be applied toward the cost of eligible converter boxes.

How do I get my coupons?

Between January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009, consumers can apply for up to two $40 coupons per household by calling 1-888-DTV-2009 (1-888-388-2009), by applying online at www.DTV2009.gov or by mailing an application to P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000. Applicants will receive their coupons in the mail.

Where can I use my coupons?

When your coupon comes in the mail, it will include an insert that lists nearby participating retailers. These retailers are likely to be stores where you commonly go to buy electronics products. You can also order TV converter boxes online and by telephone. Click here for a list of participating retailers and to locate them on a map using your zip code.

When can I apply for my coupons?

You may apply for coupons between January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009, while supplies last.

Are coupon applications available in other places, such as my local library or grocery store?

The government is working with its partners to make applications available in places that make the most sense for communities. The easiest way to apply is to call the 24-hour hotline at 1-888-DTV-2009 or online at www.DTV2009.gov. If you don't have a computer, try one of the public computer terminals at your local library.

Are coupon applications available in retail stores?

Some retailers may offer coupon application forms at their stores. However, retailers cannot issue coupons. Consumers must request them directly from the federal government. Each retailer will decide whether it wants to provide applications. The easiest way to apply is to call 1-888-DTV-2009 or go online at www.DTV2009.gov.

What does the TV converter box coupon look like?

Coupons look like plastic credit cards or gift cards that are widely used by the retail industry. Unlike gift cards, TV converter box coupons do not carry a stored value and can only be used towards the purchase of eligible TV converter boxes.

Are all consumers eligible for the coupon program?

Yes, every U.S. household is eligible, but supplies are limited. There are 22.25 million coupons available to all U.S. households. Once those coupons have been used, an additional 11.25 million coupons will only be available to households that solely receive their TV broadcasts over-the-air using an antenna. Households with TV sets connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service are not eligible for the second batch of coupons. Consumers can apply for coupons until March 31, 2009, or until the funds are exhausted.

How many coupons can I request?

Each household can request a maximum of two coupons. Each coupon may be applied towards the purchase of a single converter box. The coupons can be ordered one at a time or both at the same time.

What information do I need to provide the government to request my coupons?

The TV converter box coupon application requires you to provide your name, household address, number of coupons requested (maximum of two) and whether you subscribe to cable, satellite or other pay television service.

Will the government use my name and address for any other purpose?

No. Your personal information is protected under privacy laws and will not be sold or used for purposes other than administering the NTIA coupon program.

Are nursing homes, group homes and other institutions eligible for coupons?

Under the coupon program's current rules, these viewers are excluded from applying, but that may change soon. The program requires that applicants must meet the U.S. Census Bureau definition of a household. However, in April, the NTIA filed a proposed rulemaking that would allow people living in nursing homes and other group institutions to qualify for converter box coupons.

Can I apply for people who are unable to apply for themselves, such as an elderly parent?

Yes, but you will need to use that person's home address, which will be validated for eligibility. Only two coupons will be issued per U.S. household address, and the coupons are intended for the resident of that household.

What if I have my mail sent to a post office box?

Under the coupon program's current rules, the government will only mail coupons to post office boxes in areas without home mail delivery or for households on Indian reservations, Alaskan Native villages and other rural areas, but that may change soon. In April, the NTIA filed a proposed rulemaking that would allow people who use post office boxes to qualify for converter box coupons.

Can I use my coupons to purchase any TV converter box on the market?

No, your coupons can only be used toward the purchase of converter boxes deemed coupon-eligible by the federal government. Click here for a list of eligible converter boxes. You may also ask participating retailers whether the TV converter boxes sold in their stores can be purchased with the $40 government coupon.

Can I use my coupon to purchase other consumer electronics products, such as DVD recorders or televisions?

No, coupons are electronically coded so they may be used only for buying coupon-eligible converter boxes.

Can I use my coupon to get $40 off a TV converter box I've already purchased?

No, coupons must be presented at the point of sale and must be redeemed at the time TV converter boxes are purchased.

What happens to my coupon after I use it?

It is instantly deactivated and cannot be used again. Stores may keep them, or you can throw them away. Keep your receipt and a record of your coupon number in case you decide to exchange or return the converter box.

Can I replace a lost or stolen coupon?

No, coupons cannot be reissued. If you have requested one coupon, you may be eligible to receive another. However, if both coupons were lost or stolen, or you requested both coupons, used one, and the other coupon is lost or stolen, by law the government is unable to issue coupon replacements.

Can I use both coupons toward the purchase of one converter box?

No, only one coupon can be used per coupon-eligible converter box.

Can coupons be used by other members of a household?

Yes. Coupons can be redeemed by anyone in your household. However, only two coupons will be issued per household regardless of the number of occupants or families.

How long are coupons active?

Coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed. An expiration date is printed on each coupon.

If I bought a TV converter box with the coupon, but then returned it for credit with the retailer, can I use that credit for any other purchase at the retailer?

You will not be able to receive cash or credit for the coupon amount, but you can receive cash or credit for any additional amount you paid out of pocket, if the store policy permits returns or exchanges.

Can I exchange my TV converter box for another one?

If the retail store permits exchanges, you can exchange the converter box you purchased for another coupon-eligible one.

If my coupon expires before I use it, can I apply for another one?

If you applied for just one coupon and it expires before you use it, then you may apply for a second coupon. However, once two coupons have been issued to your household, you are no longer eligible to request any more coupons. Coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed.

Can a coupon be used to pay for sales tax?

No, the $40 coupon can only be used towards the price of an eligible TV converter box, excluding any sales tax. 

Antennas

Will I still need an antenna to receive DTV over-the-air?

Yes, you will still need an antenna to continue watching free, over-the-air television after the digital transition. In general, the same type of antenna that gives you good quality analog TV signals now will also provide reliable DTV reception. After June 12, 2009, some television stations will be moving to a different channel in a different frequency band, which may require you to get another type of antenna from the one you are using. To help determine which outdoor antenna is best for you, visit www.antennaweb.org.

I don't have an antenna. Will I still get reception after the transition?

Antennas can be either indoor or outdoor. If you live in a home or apartment building, there may be an antenna on the roof or a master antenna distribution system to the building residents. If you subscribe to a cable or satellite service, then nothing will change after June 12, 2009, and you will continue getting reception as usual. However, if you don't subscribe to a pay TV service, then you are actually using an antenna but may not know it.

Do I need to buy a new antenna?

After June 12, 2009, some television stations will be moving to a different channel in a different frequency band, which may require you to get another type of antenna from the one you use now. For example, some channels in the VHF band (Channels 2-13) may move to the UHF band (Channels 14-51) and vice versa. Receiving VHF and UHF signals require different types of antenna elements. Many antennas are designed as combo units and will receive both VHF and UHF signals.

What do VHF and UHF stand for?

The Very High Frequency (VHF) band is the segment of the television broadcast band covering channels 2 through 13. The Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band is the segment of the television broadcast band covering channels 14 through 69.

Are all digital stations on UHF channels?

Currently, the vast majority of TV stations broadcasting in digital are using UHF (14 and up) channels to do so. However, this is not due to any technical requirement of digital broadcasting. It is because the UHF channels were more likely to be available in most television markets. When the digital transition is completed and TV stations no longer broadcast in analog, a significant number of stations plan to switch and use their current analog VHF channels for digital instead.

If most stations are using UHF channels for their digital programming, do I need a UHF-only antenna?

There are antennas that can only receive UHF stations and ones that receive both UHF and VHF signals. If you are fairly certain you won't want to get any lower channels in the VHF channel 2-13 range, you could purchase a UHF-only antenna. To find the right outdoor antenna for you, visit www.antennaweb.org, which will also tell you the channels being used in your area before and after the DTV transition date.

After plugging in the converter box, I lost my reception. Why did this happen?

If you hook up the box and lose signals from full-power stations, the problem is most likely with your antenna. Because some stations broadcast in analog in the VHF band, a simple VHF antenna-like rabbit ears-can pick up the signals. However, if the stations' digital signals are in the UHF band, then rabbit-ear antennas won't be able to pick them up. You will need a VHF/UHF antenna (rabbit ears plus a loop antenna) to pick up both digital and analog signals. Depending on where you live and where your TV set is in your house, you may need an outdoor antenna. Check www.antennaweb.org to find out how far the local stations are from your house.

How does a station moving to a new frequency band affect me?

After the transition, some TV stations may move to another channel in a different frequency band, which would require you to get another type of antenna than the one you use now. For example, a station in the "VHF band" (channels 2-13) could move to a channel in the "UHF band" (channels 14-51) and vice versa. Receiving VHF and UHF signals require different antenna types, although some antennas are designed to get both VHF and UHF signals.

What's the difference between indoor and outdoor antennas?

There are several types of antennas ranging from the common indoor "rabbit ears" to large outdoor antennas. While the antenna you are using for analog reception may work satisfactorily for DTV, newer designs may work better in some situations. Outdoor antennas, which are usually mounted on a rooftop, are preferable in areas with difficult reception. The best antenna type for you depends on how far you are from the transmitting station, whether you live in a house or an apartment, and whether there are hills, tall buildings or large trees near your home.

How much does an antenna cost?

Depending on the selected features, antennas can cost anywhere between $10 and $100 (plus the installation charge for an outdoor antenna) and are sold at electronics retailers nationwide.

Where can I get help determining which antenna is right for me?

Consumers can find suggestions for appropriate outdoor antennas by entering their street address at www.AntennaWeb.org. Using geographical maps and signal strengths, the site's database predicts which stations are available at a particular location, the type of antenna needed and which direction the antenna needs to be pointed.

After installing my converter box, some stations come in well while others don't. How come?

Due to your geographic location or an individual station's signal strength, there may be some stations that are easier to receive in digital than others. Besides choosing the right type of antenna, you also need to adjust its position and the direction it is pointing to get the best reception.

I've correctly installed my converter box, but am still having reception trouble. Is there anything else I should do?

If you are having trouble receiving stations after hooking up a converter box with an indoor antenna, try moving the antenna around and changing its angle. If that doesn't work, you may need to get a different indoor antenna design or consider changing to an outdoor antenna. In general, mounting an antenna higher gets better reception and an outdoor antenna needs to be pointed carefully in the right direction. Remember to check whether you have the right UHF or combination UHF/VHF antenna for all of the stations you want to watch. Click here for more information about antennas and digital television.

Your TV 

Will I have to discard my older analog television after June 12, 2009?

No. A digital-to-analog converter box will allow you to continue using your existing analog TV set to watch over-the-air digital programming. If your analog set is hooked up to a subscription service, such as cable or satellite TV, it should continue to function as before. Analog sets should also continue working with gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players and similar products that you use now.

Using your TV set manufacturer name and model number, search this database to find out if your TV set has a digital tuner.

I have a handheld or battery-powered TV. Will this work after June 12, 2009? Can I connect it to a TV converter box?

If your portable analog TV set has an available RF or Line input jack, it can be connected to a DTV converter box to continue receiving television signals after the transition. Currently, there is at least one battery-powered converter box available now. The manufacturer, Winegard, offers a battery pack for use with its converter box model.

Will my VCR or DVD player still work after I plug a converter box into my TV?

Yes. However, after the digital transition, the analog tuner in your VCR will not be able to pick up over-the-air programs for recording. Instead, the input to the VCR must be connected to the output of the DTV converter box. You must set the converter box tuner to the channel you want to record prior to the start of the timed recording programmed in the VCR.

Will I receive high definition TV (HDTV) with a converter box?

With a converter box, you will be able to watch HDTV programs, but not with HDTV quality. Although analog TV sets cannot display high definition resolution, your picture will generally improve with a TV converter box. If you want to view true high definition TV, then you will need a newer TV set rated for high definition resolution.

If I want a new TV set, do I have to buy a high definition TV (HDTV) to watch digital broadcast television after the transition?

No. It is important to understand that the June 12, 2009 deadline refers to the end of analog broadcasting and the beginning of all-digital broadcasting. All new television sets will be able to receive and decode all formats of digital television, although you will need an HDTV set to watch programs that are broadcast in HDTV with full high definition quality. A standard definition digital TV (a TV set with an internal digital tuner), or a digital-to-analog converter box connected to an analog TV set, is all you need to continue watching over-the-air broadcast television programming.

Can I watch TV and record programs on my VCR at the same time?

Yes. If you want to watch and record one program simultaneously, you will only need one converter box. However, if you want to watch one program and record a different channel at the same time, you will need two converter boxes.

Each TV set or TV recording device, such as a VCR, that does not have a digital tuner must be connected to a DTV converter box to continue receiving broadcast signals. Click here to, , learn how to hook up converter boxes with your VCR, DVR or DVD recorder for recording.

I want to get rid of my analog TV set. What are my recycling options?

The Environmental Protection Agency has compiled a comprehensive list of programs for donating or recycling electronics products at http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm. Another great resource is www.mygreenelectronics.org, where you can type in your zip code and find nearby recycling stations.

After plugging in my converter box, I see black or gray bars on the sides or all the way around my picture. Why doesn't the picture fill up the TV screen?

Simply put, your converter box may be having trouble determining the shape of the picture and how to best display it on your existing TV set. Traditional analog TV sets have a square-shaped screen, and some digital programming is still being produced in this shape, which should fill the screen on your TV. However, many digital programs are now produced with widescreen pictures intended for viewing on digital TV sets with wider screens. It is due to these differences in picture shape that creates bars around your picture.

You can remove or reduce the size of the bars by using a button on the converter box remote control that changes the way a picture is displayed. Find the button marked "zoom" or "aspect ratio," and keep pressing it until the picture looks right. You may need to change the setting for different programs. Please note that widescreen programs are meant to have bars on the top and bottom when viewed on a square-shaped screen, but no programs should have bars all the way around the picture.

After installing my converter box, I lost some of the channels I used to get. What should I do?

After hooking up a converter box to your TV set, or installing a new digital TV set, you will need to scan (also known as "auto-tune") for new channels to make sure you receive all of the digital stations broadcasting in your area. While some boxes do this automatically, you may need to select scan manually.

Because some digital stations that are already on air are moving to different channel numbers after the DTV transition, you may need to rescan again after June 12, 2009, to ensure that you receive all of the digital stations broadcasting in your area.

For what types of situations do I need to rescan?

You should rescan your converter box or TV set for channels when installing equipment for the first time, after repositioning or moving an antenna around and once again after June 12, 2009. Since some digital stations are still coming on air, you may want to consider rescanning on a periodic basis to get all of the digital programming available. 

Emergency Situations

Because my area is prone to frequent power outages due to hurricanes and bad weather, I have a portable, battery-operated TV set to watch the local news for information about evacuations and shelters. Can I still use my portable set after the transition?

If your portable analog TV set has an available RF or Line input jack, it can be connected to a DTV converter box to continue receiving television signals after the transition. Currently, there is at least one battery-powered converter box available now. The manufacturer, Winegard, offers a battery pack for use with its converter box model.

If your portable, battery-powered TV set is a new model with a built-in digital tuner, it will be able to pick up television signals after the transition without a converter box. There are at least two portable digital TV sets selling in stores now, and more are expected to enter the marketplace in the near future.

I am a cable or satellite subscriber and have been told I don't need to do anything to prepare for the transition. But what should I do if my cable goes out in an emergency, such as a blizzard or hurricane?

If your cable or satellite goes out in an emergency situation, but you still have power for your television, it is important to note that you will not be able to receive any television broadcasts. In that case, you may want to consider purchasing a DTV converter box (and a suitable antenna, if you don't already have one), so you can receive free over-the-air television programming until your pay TV service is restored. Another advantage to using a converter box is that you may be able to receive some over-the-air local digital channels not carried on cable or satellite.

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