The only thing that seems to be as confusing as HDTF is the whole issue about the end of analog television broadcasts on February 17, 2009. Here’s the straight scoop; on that day, local television stations will cease their analog broadcasts of television content. They will continue the free digital broadcasts that are already available. You will need a television with a digital (ATSC) tuner to receive these signals, or a converter box that will translate them so that an analog set can display the content. This changeover does not affect people already using settop boxes from cable or satellite TV services; those will continue to work just as they do now.
Well, at least that’s what I thought. Then I ran across the Community Broadcasters Association (CBA). This organization includes “low power” television broadcasters. Here’s how the FCC describes low power stations:
“The Low Power Television Service (LPTV) was established by the Federal Communication Commission in 1982. It was primarily intended to provide opportunities for locally-oriented television service in small communities, both rural communities and individual communities within larger urban areas. LPTV presents a less expensive and very flexible means of delivering programming tailored to the interests of viewers in small localized areas, providing a means of local self-expression. In addition, LPTV has created abundant opportunities for new entry into television broadcasting, and it has permitted fuller use of the broadcast spectrum. LPTV branch is also responsible for processing application for Television Translator stations. TV Translator stations are stations in the broadcast service operated for the purpose of retransmitting the programs and signals of a TV broadcast station.”
As of September 2006, there were 2,189 licensed low power stations, 568 Class A stations, and another 4,717 repeater stations. These far outnumber the 1,754 full power commercial and educational stations. The analog cut-off only applies to the full power stations; the remainder can and likely will continue their analog broadcasts, according to comments submitted by the CBA to the FCC. The CBA points out that Class A and low power TV stations often serve minority, ethnic, and other niche audiences that may be underserved by the full power TV, cable, and satellite broadcasters.
So in spite of my best efforts to spread accurate information about the digital television broadcast transition, it looks as though I didn’t have the whole story. There will be use for those analog tuners after February 17, 2009 after all, and I apologize to all the low power and Class A broadcasters and their audiences for adding to the confusion.