On Wednesday, the FCC approved new rules that require retailers to include warning stickers on any television sold with an analog tuner but not a digital tuner. All new models are required to have digital tuners at this point, so this sticker requirement would apply to the existing inventory of products. If these units are not connected to a cable, satellite, or digital tuner box, they will not be able to receive television broadcasts after February 17, 2009 when the analog transmissions will end.
This is a responsible move on the part of the FCC, but it’s important to keep the issue in perspective. Most people are connected to cable or satellite for their video programming, and a small minority rely on just the over-the-air terrestrial broadcasts. And I expect the price for digital tuner adapters to fall rapidly as we approach the Feburary 2009 cut-off date (as demand increases and competition heats up). So not having a digital tuner is not likely to be a problem for most people. In fact, I expect to see lots of models appear with no tuners at all.
Consumers are going to continue to be confused about the analog broadcast cut-off, but this new sticker requirement will at least help make more of them aware of the situation.