Truth Patrol: Digital TV Misinformation Abounds

HDTV Truth Patrol

Okay, the fact is that I could probably write every entry from now until February 17, 2009 finding errors in what’s being written about the digital TV transisition. Some of the errors apparently are made out of ignorance, and some are cases of the writer over-simplifying. But the fact remains that there’s a lot of misleading information out there, and it only adds to the confusion. When a media outlet with a strong reputation like Silicon Valley’s Mercury News gets it wrong, it’s likely to confuse a lot of people.

Yesterday, the paper ran a story on the digital transition that was generally excellent. But then they stubbed their toe:

If you own a high-definition (HDTV) set, you’re fine. And if you were looking to replace your old TV set anyway (a perfect holiday gift to yourself), keep in mind that all sets built in the U.S. since 2006 are equipped with a digital tuner. If you have any doubts about the status of your television, contact the manufacturer and have your model number handy.

No. You’re not fine for sure if you have an HDTV. I’ve got an HDTV, and it sure doesn’t have a digital tuner in it. Lots of people have HDTVs that don’t have digital tuners, and many HD flat panels were sold (and continue to be sold) without any tuner at all. All TV sets 36″ and larger were required to have digital tuners — if they have any tuners at all — as of July 1, 2005. All TV sets 25″ to 36″ that had tuners were required to have digital tuners by March 1, 2006. Anything with a TV tuner (such as VHS or DVD recorders) including TVs of any size were required to have digital tuners as of March 1, 2007. If you purchased an HDTV in those categories that was made prior to those dates, it probably doesn’t have a digital tuner.

So while it is likely that your HDTV has a digital tuner, it’s far from guaranteed. The second part of the quote is still sound advice; if you don’t know, check with the manufacturer. They remain the best source of information about what your set has inside.