All Digital TV is 14 Months Away

On February 17, 2009 all analog television broadcasts will end and only digital signals will be transmitted. Does this mean you need to buy a new television? Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice has the answer.

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The short answer is no. The TV you have now, even if its 20 years old, will still work, but you will need a converter box. The good news is the government will help you pay for it. Megan Pollack is with the Consumer Electronics Association, a trade group for the electronics industry.

"Starting in January of '08 you can apply for a government subsidized coupon and get a converter box that insures that the new signal will be translated and used on you old television set."

This is for people who want to continue to use their analog TV with an antenna to get the over the air signal. If you use cable or satellite, those systems already offer digital converters with their receivers. You can apply for the coupon at dtv2009.gov. Applications will also be available at places such as public libraries and post offices.

"You apply, sent this back into the government and they'll send you two $40.00 coupons and also a list of local retailers that carry converter boxes."

Digital TV's have been available for a number of years, and as of March of this year no TV can be sold in the U.S. without having a digital tuner in it. The Consumer Electronics Association, or CEA, is a trade group, so it wants you to know that buying a new digital TV yields immediate results as cable and satellite companies offer all digital channels. But if you go to buy a new TV you will confronted with a lot of possibilities.

"There's three different varieties of digital, you can have standard definition, enhanced definition and high definition. It's sort of good, better best."

And that's just scratching the surface. There are LCD, plasma, rear projection, front projection-all kinds of televisions sets to choose from when you start to shop for a new one.

"There're so many options, which is great fro the consumer, but you do need to know what you want and what's available. One of the best ways to do that is to go online and check things out. We have a web site digitaltips.org and it really goes through all the steps and all the things you need before you go out and buy."

So when consumers go into a store are they armed with information?

"They think they are but they kind of need someone to guide them through and tell them what they really need and stuff."

That's a clerk at one of the big box stores who wanted to remain anonymous.ξ He likes customers who walk into the store with information, most of the time.

"Sometimes it helps me out because they know what they want; sometimes they think they're right and I wrong."

And that's another reason to know as much as you can before you buy, so you don't take what you hear at face value. So whether you are going to keep that old Zenith set you've had for years or move up to HDTV, read before you watch.

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