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Digital TV Conversion: How Do You Spell SNAFU?

by February 18, 2009

We’re only a day into the new Digital TV age and things just haven’t gone right so far. The switch to Digital TV has been confusing enough for the average consumer. Only a year ago the switch was officially announced that Feb 17th 2009 would mark the dawning of a new age of DTV. Things haven’t worked out as planned – leading even the most seasoned TV experts to scratch their head in wonder.

The over-air spectrum that should have been freed up for other purposes is still being occupied by Analog TV. The drop-dead Digital TV deadline, that has been in the works for the past three years at least, has been pushed back. Yes, it was an act of Congress that involved struggles in the House and a memo that finally reached all the way up to the office the recently anointed President. The switch to Digital has been one cluster-SNAFU for the Whitehouse.

So what happened to Digital TV?

Nobody thought it would be easy. To help ensure a seamless switch the federal government plunked down $2 billion on a program aimed at getting America prepared for the inevitable switch. Broadcasters themselves have spent some $1.2 billion for the new digital age. Much of that money went toward announcements to educate the TV consuming public about the switch. But most of the government funding went toward $40 vouchers. The $40 could buy an analog-to-digital converter for those who don’t actually own a Digital TV. That probably doesn’t include anyone here in the Audioholics.com reading audience but we may know someone.

TV ads, news paper ads and not to mention a flood of information online warned everyone that grandma’s setup with rabbit-ears connected with two screws to an old analog TV tuner soon wasn’t going to cut it. That day is finally here and our brave new Digital TV reality hasn’t been fully realized. However a select few stations have actually made the switch.

As anticipated, a sudden swarm of last minute requests for government vouchers literally flooded the system. A DTV converter coupon waiting list formed and more government money needed to be earmarked to complete the switch. Many people complained they simply weren’t given enough time to apply for a voucher. The new kid in the Whitehouse, Barack Obama, barely had time to enjoy the honeymoon. He soon found himself taking up the procrastinator’s right to that new opiate of the masses - television.

Congress took some time out of its busy schedule, IE finding ways to spend a whole lot of money, to delay the DTV switch. Officially the switch to DTV has been delayed to June 12. However a provision was tacked onto the DTV bill where the FCC will allow stations to make the switch at their own discretion. Many have made the switch and have already said good-bye to analog. The big guns including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are all hoping to delay their switch until the new June 12 deadline.

A hotline has been setup: 1-888-CALL-FCC for help with the switch from analog to digital television. The most common problem reported seems to have been users who didn’t realize they need to force the digital boxes to rescan for stations that have already made the switch.

AP reports that that the government has a waiting list of some 4 million converter coupons. The National Telecommunications Information Administration is hopeful it can get through the queue within two to three weeks of receiving renewed funding from the economic stimulus bill.

If you’ve already got a Digital TV, that’s just about any TV set purchased in the last ten years or so and almost certainly includes any HDTV ever made, you don’t have to worry. Neither do you care about this mess if you subscribe to any form of digital TV feed like Satellite or Cable TV.

But if you rely on over-air broadcasts with an analog tuner and that favorite TV station has already made the switch to digital leaving you in the dark – it’s time to find alternatives. May I suggest Treasure Island? The Robert Louis Stevenson classic never shows its age and who knows, maybe after reading the book you’ll be enticed to seek a treasure of your own – a brand new Panasonic Viera TC-37LZ800 HDTV. ARRGH!

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About the author:

Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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Recent Forum Posts:

Phil Taylor posts on March 02, 2009 15:40
Well - I finally fixed the dual channel issue - had to do a full reset on the TV. Then had to re-scan, enter input labels, video settings etc. = PITA.
poutanen posts on March 02, 2009 14:56
Phil Taylor, post: 531726
The issue I now have is that my Dish HD PVR's OTA is fine *snip*

Speaking of which, I'm really looking forward to the DTV Pal DVR. There are a lot of issues with them at the moment, but if/when they get smoothed out, I'd be all over that. $250 for an HD DVR with a good TVGOS based guide!

I used to pay $75 a month incl tax and HD box rental for cable. And the truth is I was probably watching 75% the same HD networks that I get now for free. PBS replaces the discovery channel (Nova is great, and no ads!), the only thing I really miss is TSN (can version of ESPN) and Speed. No F1 in HD for me.

But with an HD PVR, I can record a lot of the great shows that are on when I'm not home, and have lots of free HD programming available whenever I want to watch it.

I say yay to DTV. A few of the kinks need to be worked out, but so far DTV already outweighs cable/sat for me.
Phil Taylor posts on March 02, 2009 14:35
Last week I went and got a $9.99 Philips combo UHF/VHF antenna and re-scanned and get everything with even better signal level than the Silver Sensor - most channels show 100% with the weakest at 95. I'm sure it helps that I had the SS and the new one going thru a Blonder Tongue BIDA 50 amp (although it is just idling).

The issue I now have is that my Dish HD PVR's OTA is fine but the CBS station is showing up twice in my TV's channel list and won't tune the signal unless I go into the signal strength meter and select the channel and then it works. If I merely tune to the channel it shows “no signal” - I'm guessing since it is in the channel lineup twice. It's a Panny 42PX80U. I've tried to edit the channel list and re-scanned to no avail. It still shows up twice in the list as 9-1…
poutanen posts on March 02, 2009 14:09
Phil Taylor, post: 527337
Our local CBS affiliate in OKC changed to VHF digital from UHF digital for some unknown reason and many viewers have lost signal here. I am within 5 miles of the tower and get “no signal” using a Zenith Silver Sensor which worked fine for VHF before the switch (although it is a UHF antenna I am close enough that it worked). They admit they are only at 80% power for some stupid reason. Thankfully I have Dish HD and use it for that station's reception.

I suspect the problem may be your antenna. Most indoor antennas (Silver Sensor included) are a compromise of size vs. function. Could you not fit a CM4221 clone in your attic? I get them locally for $25 each and pull in stations from about 50 miles away no problem.

With regards to the other thoughts in this thread, for Canadian OTA, all the major networks are broadcasting digital and analog. Hockey night in Canada on CBC-HD is great! The trouble is, there is almost no PSIP data. I think CBC and CTV are the only ones showing data (maybe SunTV too) Omni 1 and 2, and CityTV are not showing PSIP data. My EPG just shows (DTV program) where the guide should be.

OTA is alive and well though, and I cancelled my cable 4 months ago and haven't looked back. I'm getting ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, MyTV, TheCW, CBC, CTV, Omni 1, Omni 2, Global, CityTV, and SunTV. Most of them are in HD. And this is all happening on my Samsung HL67A750 w/ built in ATSC tuner.
BMXTRIX posts on February 24, 2009 13:13
ThA tRiXtA, post: 528259
Unfortunately, as in all things in life, the slowest rower in the boat sets the pace for all of us.
Need a bit more of “The slowest rower in the boat gets kicked off the team.”

Really, people who don't know about this transition really just need their TVs turned off by the changeover to understand that it applies to them.
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