TV Viewers Prepare for Digital Transition

In February 2009, all full-power broadcast television stations in the U.S. will stop analog transmissions and begin broadcasting only in digital. Older televisions, especially those produced before March 2007, may not be able to decode the digital signals. The government is offering vouchers good for $40 toward the purchase of a converter box to retrofit older sets and prepare them for the switchover. Viewers who already receive cable or satellite signals won't need to readjust their sets for the digital transition.

Megan Pollock, senior manager of communications at the Consumer Electronics Association explains why the transition is happening and what viewers will need to do to keep up.

More TV Options Mean More Confused Consumers

As TVs get more complicated, more and more people don't know how to use them. In fact, half of people who have high-definition televisions don't subscribe to HD cable packages — so they aren't actually watching anything in high-def.

Then there's the federally mandated switch to digital broadcast signals, coming up in 18 months. It's got nothing to do with HDTV, necessarily, but it might just make your old TV obsolete.

So whether you're ready to shell out big bucks for a high-definition TV, or you've already coughed up the cash, there's a lot to sort out if you want to get the most out of your investment.

Happily, there are resources out there to be consulted, from technology Web sites to programming providers to tech-savvy teens who blog happily away about pretty much any device you can imagine.

And there's always the cable company: You may have to call them out anyway, if you've got a new TV and an older cable box. While the cable guy is there, see if you can get him to explain the V-chip. You'll be glad you did: Congress wants to put them in all kinds of media players, from iPods to game consoles.

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