By law, television stations nationwide must switch from the old method of transmitting TV signals known as analog to digital television (DTV) on June 12, 2009. The U.S. Congress approved an extension of the deadline, which was originally set for February 17th. DTV is an innovative new type of broadcasting technology that delivers movie-quality pictures and sound, more channels, and even high definition television (HDTV) to consumers with HD television sets. While the benefits of DTV are remarkable, millions of households risk losing television reception unless they take the easy steps to receive a digital signal.
Digital Television Frequently Asked Questions
What is Digital Television?
Digital television (DTV) is a new form of TV developed in conjunction with the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) and was approved by the Federal Communications Commission on December 24, 1996. This new technology is capable of transmitting one High Definition Television (HDTV) program or multiple Standard Definition Television (SDTV) programs. The federal government has adopted this new digital television format in order to allow the broadcast industry to deliver programs that are comparable in quality to other digitally delivered services, such as direct broadcast satellite, digital cable and digital video disk.
Is HDTV the same thing as DTV?
No. HDTV is the highest quality of DTV, but it is only one of many formats. In addition to HDTV, the most common formats are Standard Definition Television (SDTV) and Enhanced Definition Television (EDTV).
SDTV is the baseline display and resolution for both analog and digital. Transmission of SDTV may be in either the traditional (4:3) or wide-screen (16:9) format.
EDTV is a step up from Analog Television. EDTV comes in widescreen (16:9) or traditional (4:3) format and provides better picture quality than SDTV, but not as high as HDTV.
What are the key features of High Definition Television?
The first noticeable difference of High Definition Television from the current television system is that the screen is much wider. In our current television system when the width of the picture is divided by the height of the picture it will always produces a 4/3 ratio. High Definition Television, on the other hand, may have a width to height ratio of 16/9, which closely approximates that of the cinema. The second key feature is that High Definition has over six times the sharpness and clarity of the current television system. The HDTV picture can contain 1080 vertical picture elements (pixels) by 1920 horizontal pixels for a total of over 2.0 million pixels. The current standard definition picture contains only 480 vertical pixels by 720 pixels for a total of 345,600 pixels. Third, the color resolution of HDTV is also more than twice the current system. High Definition television also has six channels of CD-quality surround sound (left, right, center, left rear, right rear, and low frequency effects). Finally, the signal is digitally transmitted, which eliminates all of the current imperfections we have lived with for the past thirty years, which include snow (weak signal), double images (ghosting or multi-path) and picture sparkles (impulse noise). As a result, the picture is perfect whether you are one mile or fifty-five miles from the transmitter.
Will this make my existing television set obsolete?
No, your existing television set will still continue to receive the current analog standard definition television transmission. However, you will not be able to receive the new digital high definition transmission.
In order to receive High Definition Television, you must purchase a DTV receiver, which are now available at most consumer electronics dealers. The new televisions will be able to receive existing analog television transmissions as well as the new High Definition transmission. CBS will be simulcasting the same program on two different channels. In Las Vegas on Channel 8 analoge and 8-1 digital or in in association with Cox Cable the DTV channel is broadcast on cable channel 730.
What about my existing VCR, will it be able to play back and record the new digital television?
Your existing VCR will be able to play back your library of VHS tapes on the new digital television receivers. However, your VHS VCR will not be able to record the widescreen high definition signal. If you want to record and playback the digital HDTV signal, you will need to purchase a new D-VHS VCR.
How do I get DTV or HDTV?
Receiving the DTV and HDTV signals over-the-air requires an antenna and a new DTV receiver that can decode the digital signals. In general, an antenna that provides quality reception of over-the-air analog TV signals will work for DTV reception.
If you are a cable or satellite customer, you may need a set-top box to receive DTV signals and convert them into the format of your current analog television, even after the DTV transition is complete. A DTV set-top box also may receive multicast channels and high definition programming and display them in analog picture quality.
Check with your cable or satellite provider to determine if and when you will need a set-top box. A listing of the operational DTV stations is available at http://www.fcc.gov/mb/video/files/dtvonair.html. Satellite TV providers and most cable systems are currently offering DTV programming. Subscribers should check with their service providers to see what programming is available in their area.
Will I need a new antenna to receive digital High Definition Television?
If you have an existing outside aerial that is capable of receiving existing VHF or UHF stations then you will be able to receive digital High Definition Television using your same antenna. However, if you do not have an outside aerial it will be necessary to install a new outdoor antenna.
Are all of CBS's programs going to be in high definition?
Eventually yes; however, initially CBS has converted most of its primetime evening schedule to high definition. We will continue to expand the number of high definition hours that are broadcast per day. All the standard definition programs (4/3) that are not produced in High Definition Television will be upconverted. Upconversion refers to the process of doubling the number of television lines in our current system (525) to develop the 1080-line high definition signal.
Can I receive High Definition Television over cable or satellite?
Cable and satellite systems usually offer high defintion channels as an option "tier" of programming. Special set top boxes or "cable cards" provided by your cable or satellite company are required to view these digital channels. In Las Vegas, KLAS-DT is Channel 128 on Cox Cable's Digital Tier. We also broadcast LATV on Cox Cable channel 129.
It is technically possible for digital High Definition Television to be transmitted over a cable system's existing cable channel. Cox Cable presently carries our DTV channel. Contact Cox for further information.
Detailed technical information regarding the ATSC standard is available on the web at http://www.atsc.org. Also available on the web are the Federal Communications Commission's Fifth Report and Order, which governs the service rules of digital television and the Sixth Report and Order, which relates to the technical aspects as well as the channel assignments. Both of these documents are available at http://www.fcc.gov.