Changes to television may not be smooth

Published 12:02 pm Wednesday, January 21, 2009

By By Lowell McGill
Since I wrote a column last month on the changeover from analog to digital TV broadcasting, I have received a few e-mails from some readers who are still unclear about what is going to happen to their TVs.
First, let me explain what is supposed to happen on that day. I said supposed, but, that may not exactly be the case as some new developments may alter that date, but I’ll tell you more about that later.
In simple terms if you receive your TV signals from a rooftop antenna or rabbit ears your TV will “go dead” after Feb. 17. That’s because the government has ordered TV broadcasting to be aired in a digital mode. As it is now, signals are received on your sets as analog beams.
I won’t get into why this change is being made, because I am sure many of you are really not interested in this aspect.
I will say the new digital transmission will provide clearer and better looking reception on your TV sets.
If your TV programs come to you by cable or satellite you will not be affected by the changeover. However, if you do not use these modes of TV reception you must purchase a converter box which will allow your TV to receive the new transmissions.
The converter box cost about $50. However, the government will send you up to two coupons to apply to the cost of the converter. The coupons have a value of $40 each
Now here is the problem I mentioned earlier. According to an internet news story written by “Swami” of TV, a long waiting list for coupons will prevent thousands from receiving these coupons by Feb. 17. In other words, he says “the government has run out of money” to supply the $40 coupon. Now, you do not need to wait for your coupon. You can go to the local Radio Shack or most any electronic store and buy the converter box. However, when you do receive your coupons you will notice an expiration date, which as I understand, will not permit you to use the coupon beyond the expiration date. It is my information coupons could have no value to you if you purchased the converter box prior to your receiving the coupons with an expired expiration date.
Mr. Swanni has also written that some TV stations across the country will not be prepared to broadcast in the digital mode by the changeover date. He did not identify those stations, however.
Here is the toll free number to order your coupons. It is 877-530-2634. You can also go online at and request your coupons.
The general conception is that there are countless thousands who use rabbit ears and antennas will lose their TV reception Feb. 17 and the government is strongly considering pushing back this changeover date until later in the year according to TV
Now, here is something I have recently done and some of you may find it somewhat interesting. I purchased a HD (High Definition) TV and an indoor amplified antenna (the antenna looks like a fine leather covered book). I am now receiving 16 HD channels, all in beautiful color and definition. I talked with an engineer and he tells me if I invest in a $100 outdoor or attic antenna I will be able to receive 42 HD channels. This is almost as many channels as I am receiving on my Dish Family package. The engineer told me he no longer needed his satellite company because he received all the stations he needed. And, of course, these HD channels are totally free. There are no satellite or cable monthly fees to pay. It would be your discretion as to which option you prefer. Some of your favorite channels may not be available if you chose the totally free HD option. It is evident that your cable and satellite company’s would give you a wider variety of programs, and I certainly am not telling you to dump cable or satellite services..
One of those channels not available on free HD is ESPN. But, it you have fast speed internet you can watch most ESPN ball games on And, if you have slingbox all internet programs, including ESPN360 can be sent wirelessly to your TV set. Ball games and downloaded movies and TV shows look exceptionally good off the internet.
Well, we more or less got away from our “Nostalgic” theme this week. But, as I stated, a couple of e-mails prompted me to spill on today’s subject.
I suppose you could look at this way from a “nostalgic viewpoint”. Twenty years ago a subject such as this would have seemed rather absurd.
Next week I’ll provide more stories about people, places and events from the year 1970.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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