The digital transition in the United States was the switchover from analog to exclusively digital broadcasting of terrestrial television television programming. According to David Rehr, then president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, this transition represented "the most significant advancement of television technology since color TV was introduced." For full-power TV stations, the transition went into effect on June 12, 2009, with stations ending regular programming on their analog signals no later than 11:59 p.m. local time that day.
Under the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005, full-power broadcasting of analog television in the United States was initially planned to have ceased after February 17, 2009. To help U.S. consumers through the conversion, the Act also established a federally sponsored DTV Converter Box Coupon Program.
The DTV Delay Act changed the mandatory analog cutoff date to June 12, although stations were permitted to cease analog transmissions before the new mandatory cutoff date. The legislation was enacted on February 4, 2009, and on February 11, 2009, President Barack Obama signed it into law. The purpose of the extension was to help the millions of households who had not been able to get their coupons for converters because demand for coupons exceeded the funding provided for in the initial bill, leaving millions on a waiting list to receive coupons. Funding for extra coupons was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. By midnight on the original cut-off date of February 17, 2009, 641 stations representing 36 percent of U.S. full-power broadcasters were transmitting exclusively in digital.
Analog broadcasting did not cease entirely following the June 12 deadline: under the provisions of the Short-term Analog Flash and Emergency Readiness Act, approximately 120 full-power stations briefly maintained analog "nightlight" service, ending no later than July 12. In a separate category, low power television stations were permitted to continue analog broadcasts for several more years.
On July 15, 2011, the FCC posted the required transition deadlines for low power television. Stations broadcasting on channels 52 to 69 were required to vacate those channels by December 31, 2011, and all analog television transmitters (primarily low-powered (LP), and Class-A low-powered (-CA) stations, and also broadcast translator (TX) repeaters in rural communities) were required to shut down by September 1, 2015. On April 24, 2015, it was announced that the conversion date for standard LPTVs and translators still broadcasting in analog had been suspended until further notice, due to economic problems that may arise from the then-upcoming spectrum auction; however, Class A low-powered stations were still required to convert by the original deadline date of September 1, 2015. After the auction's completion in 2017, the FCC announced on May 17 of that year that all analog low-power stations and transmitters must convert by July 13, 2021.
The Congressional deadline to transition to digital broadcasts was pushed back several times. Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 with the original transition date of December 31, 2006. However, the transition to digital television was set back three times: first to December 31, 2008, then to February 17, 2009, and then finally to June 12, 2009.
All U.S. full-power analog TV broadcasts were required by law to end on June 12, 2009. Since March 1, 2007, all new television devices that receive signals over-the-air, including pocket-sized portable televisions, personal computer video capture card tuners, and DVD recorders, have been required to include digital ATSC tuners. Prior to this, the requirement was phased-in starting with larger screen sizes. Until the transition was completed, most U.S. broadcasters transmitted their signals in both analog and digital formats, though a few were already digital-only. Digital stations transmitted on another channel, which was assigned to each full-power broadcaster in a three-round digital channel election.
The transition from the analog NTSC format to the digital ATSC format was originally required to be completed on February 17, 2009, as set by Congress in the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005. Following the analog switch-off, the FCC reallocated channels 52 through 69 (the 700 MHz band) for other communications traffic, completing the reallocation of broadcast channels 52–69 that began in the late 1990s. These channels were auctioned off in early 2008, with the winning bidders taking possession of them in June 2009. Four channels from this portion of the broadcast spectrum (60, 61, 68, and 69) were held for reallocation to public safety communications (such as police, fire, and emergency rescue). Some of the remaining freed up frequencies will be used for advanced commercial wireless services for consumers, such as Qualcomm's planned use of former UHF channel 55 for its MediaFLO service.
For U.S. cable television, the FCC voted 5–0 on September 12, 2007 to require operators to make local broadcasts available to their users in analog. This requirement lasts until 2012, when the FCC will review the case again. This was necessary since many cable companies, including major ones like Comcast, have been taking analog channels away from customers.
In 2007, a bill in the U.S. Congress called the DTV Border Fix Act was introduced. It would have allowed all television stations within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the Mexican border, in areas such as San Diego and the Rio Grande Valley, to keep their analog signals active for another five years. The bill passed the Senate but did not pass the House.
The SAFER Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in December 2008. The act has been called the "analog nightlight" act, and allows analog stations on channels that did not conflict with post-transition digital stations the option of leaving their analog transmitters on for an additional 30 days, but only to provide disaster information and information regarding the digital transition.
Due to a lack of Commerce Department funds to provide for additional converter box coupons, and on account of other potential problems, the Barack Obama transition team asked Congress in a January 8, 2009, letter to delay the end of analog TV. Gene Kimmelman of Consumers Union, which wanted a delay, feared older people, those outside cities and the poor needed help. Speaking to a group of area residents as part of a nationwide campaign to persuade people to upgrade, FCC chair Kevin Martin said in Raleigh, North Carolina that a delay was "unlikely," and that it would be "unfair" to all those who made the effort to switch, and to those who bought the reallocated spectrum that was sold with the understanding analog broadcasts would end February 17, 2009. The delay passed Congress despite this prediction (see Extension of transition to June 12).
As part of a test by the FCC to iron out transition and reception concerns before the nationwide shutoff, all of the major network stations in the Wilmington, North Carolina market ceased transmission of their analog signals on September 8, 2008, making it the first market in the nation to go digital-only. Wilmington was chosen as the test city in part because the area's digital channel positions would remain unchanged after the transition. Wilmington was also appropriate because it had no hills to cause reception problems and all of the stations would have UHF channels.
The low-power CBS affiliate WILM-LD signed on its new digital signal in time for the transition. The test excluded UNC-TV/PBS station WUNJ, which kept their analog signal on, as they were the official conduit of emergency information in the area.
Viewers were notified of the change by months of public service announcements, town hall meetings, and local news coverage. Only 7% of viewers were affected by the loss of analog broadcasts, the remainder subscribing to cable or satellite services, but this produced 1,800 calls to the FCC for assistance. Officials were concerned by the implications of this for larger markets or those where reliance on over the air broadcasts exceeds 30%.
More disturbingly, while many calls from viewers were straightforward questions about installation of antennas and converters, or the need to scan for channels before being able to watch digital television, hundreds more were from viewers who had installed converters and UHF antennas correctly but had still lost existing channels. Most affected were full-power broadcasters which had been on low-VHF channels. WECT (NBC 6 Wilmington), a signal which in its analog form reached to the edge of Myrtle Beach, could no longer be received by many who had watched the station for years– a victim of a move to UHF 44 at a different transmitter site. WECT's coverage area had been substantially reduced; for many who were on the fringes of the analog NBC 6 signal, WECT was no more. However weeks before, new digital-only WMBF-TV, a new NBC affiliate, came to the air to serve Myrtle Beach with a city-grade signal; like WECT, WMBF is owned by Raycom Media.
On November 7, 2008, the FCC issued an order allowing distributed transmission systems to be constructed by stations which otherwise cannot cover their original analog footprint with their new digital channels and facilities. While broadcasters may now apply for DTS facilities, this decision was made far too late to allow the extra transmitter sites to be constructed and operational before the original February 17, 2009 analog shutoff.
Digital TV encoding allows stations to offer higher definition video and better sound quality than analog, as well as allowing the option of programming multiple digital subchannels (multicasting). However, it provides these advantages at the cost of a severe limitation of broadcast range.
Digital signals do not have 'grade b' signal areas, and are either 'in perfectly' or 'not in at all'. Further, since most stations have elected to use UHF rather than older VHF channel allocations, their actual broadcast range is far less than previously. Viewers in major metropolitan areas will likely not notice problems; however, rural TV users have generally had most and in some events all of the stations they previously received with acceptable but not 'perfect' signals fall over the digital cliff (as the loss of signal has been described).
Lastly, many low-power broadcasters have been temporarily permitted to transmit in analog for several years.
Although Britain spent the equivalent of more than a billion dollars educating about 60 million people, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration had received $5 million a year before the original transition date of February 17, 2009, and the FCC had received $2.5 million and was scheduled to receive $20 million more later in the year, for 300 million people. This meant voluntary education campaigns would be needed. It was also noted that low-income, elderly, disabled, inner city, immigrants, and rural Americans were targeted the most, because these groups mainly watch analog antenna TV more than any other groups.
While broadcasters were forced by Federal Communications Commission regulations to devote the equivalent of more than a billion dollars worth of airtime to public service announcements regarding the digital transition, the amount of information conveyed in these short advertisements was by necessity limited. Both the on-air announcements and government-funded telephone hotlines receiving viewer inquiries directed consumers to Internet sites to seek information, a problematic approach, as many of those most-affected do not use online media as a primary source of information.
Consumers' old analog televisions, VCRs, DVRs, and other devices which lack a digital tuner no longer receive over-the-air television, though previously recorded content can still be replayed. The only real solution to this is to buy an external tuner (called a converter box) that receives DTV signals directly and converts them to analog for the television VCR or other analog device.
Users of analog VCRs, DVRs, or other recording devices which lack a digital tuner have a unique problem of no longer being able to record programs across multiple channels. In order to make them work with DTV the viewer must use an external tuner box and set the device to record the output from that box, typically L-1 for the line input. Some manufacturers such as Zinwell and Dish sell external converter boxes/tuners that will automatically change channels at preset times. The analog VCR or DVR may record at preset times but will continue recording the L-1 line input, which will be the same channel unless the channel is manually changed.
Alternatively the user may purchase a new TV, DVR, or DVD recorder with a built-in digital tuner. However, these newer technologies have their own drawbacks, such as no way to store programs long-term (DVR) or being limited to only 1–2 hours with high quality XP mode (DVD-R).
A major concern is that the broadcast technology used for ATSC signals called 8VSB has problems receiving signals inside buildings and in urban areas, largely due to multipath reception issues which cause ghosting and fading on analog images, but can lead to intermittent signal or no reception at all on ATSC programs. DTV broadcasts exhibit a digital cliff effect, by which viewers will receive either a perfect signal or no signal at all with little or no middle ground. Digital transmissions do contain additional data bits to provide error correction for a finite number of bit errors; once signal quality degrades beyond that point, recovery of the original digital signal becomes impossible, and the image on the screen freezes, or blinks back and forth to totally blank black.
The maximum power for DTV broadcast classes is also substantially lower; one-fifth of the legal limits for the former full-power analog services. This is because there are only eight different states in which an 8VSB signal can be in at any one moment; thus, like all digital transmissions, very little signal is required at the receiver in order to decode it. Nonetheless, this limit is often too low for many stations to reach many rural areas, which was an alleged benefit in the FCC's choice of ATSC and 8VSB over worldwide-standard DVB-T and its COFDM modulation. Additionally, without the hierarchical modulation of DVB, signal loss is complete, and there is no switch to a lower resolution before this occurs.
A hundred-kW analog station on TV channels 2 to 6 would therefore be faced with the choice of either lowering its power by 80% (to the twenty kilowatt limit of low-VHF DTV) or abandoning a frequency which it occupied since the 1950s in order to transmit more power (up to 1000 kW) on the less-crowded UHF TV band. Such stations can keep the same channel number, however, because of ATSC virtual channels. Unfortunately, the higher frequencies are challenged in areas where signals must travel great distances or encounter significant terrestrial obstacles. Most stations in the low-VHF (channels 2–6) did not return to these frequencies after the transition. About 40 stations remained in the low-VHF after the transition, with the majority in smaller markets (with a few notable exceptions). The FCC has long discouraged the digital allocation on low-VHF channels for several reasons: higher ambient noise, interference with FM radio (channel 6 borders FM at 88 MHz), and larger antenna size required for these channels. After the transition, many viewers using "high-definition" antennas have reported problems receiving stations that broadcast on VHF channels. This is because some of the new antennas marketed as "HDTV antennas" from manufacturers such as Channel Master were only designed for channels 7–51 and are more compact than their channel 2–69 counterparts. These manufacturers did not anticipate widespread continued use of the relatively longer wavelength low-VHF channels.
Stations that broadcast in analog on channel 6 have had an additional benefit of having its audio feed broadcast on 87.7 MHz, which is at the very low end of the FM radio dial. As such, many stations that use channel 6 have taken advantage of this, and directly promote this feature, especially during drive time newscasts, and as a critical conduit of information in markets where severe weather (such as hurricanes) allowed a station the advantage to broadcast their audio via FM radio without having to contract with another FM operation to do so. WDSU in New Orleans, Miami's WTVJ and WECT in Wilmington, North Carolina were among the most well-known Channel 6 broadcasters which used this approach to provide emergency information during hurricanes.
Digital television, however, does not have this feature, and after the transition, this additional method of reception is no longer available. WRGB, channel 6 in Albany, New York, used a separate transmitter on 87.7 that transmitted a vertically polarized analog audio signal, which would theoretically avoid interference with the horizontally polarized digital TV signal. This would allow the station to keep its audio on 87.7 FM after the transition to digital. WRGB ran this transmitter for approximately 6 weeks on an experimental basis, only to find that the vertically polarized 87.7 MHz signal interfered with the digital video, while broadcast of analog signals on 87.9 MHz met with FCC objections. WITI in Milwaukee took a more direct though still experimental approach to restore their TV audio, having it restored in August 2009 to an HD Radio subchannel of WMIL-FM via a content agreement with WMIL owner Clear Channel Communications. A purchase of HD Radio equipment or having a car stereo equipped with an HD Radio receiver is required to listen to this broadcast.
Planning for DTV reception assumed "a properly oriented, high-gain antenna mounted 30 feet in the air outside." The Consumer Electronics Association set up a website called AntennaWeb to identify means to provide the correct signal reception to over-the-air viewers. Another website, TVFool provides geographic mapping and signal data to allow viewers to estimate the number of channels which will be gained or lost as a result of digital transition; while it estimated that marginally more stations would be gained than lost by viewers, this varied widely with viewers of low-VHF analog signals in distant-fringe areas among the most adversely affected. An estimated 1.8 million people were expected to lose the ability to access over-the-air TV entirely as a result of the digital transition.
Viewers in rural and mountainous regions were particularly prone to lose all reception after digital transition.
U.S. markets which have presented unique problems for digital transition include:
The reclaimed channels will be used for a variety of service, including mobile phones, MediaFLO (55) and public safety (63/64 base, 68/69 mobile). Most of this mobile spectrum has been sold to existing incumbent providers, with AT&T Mobility and Verizon as the largest bidders (see United States 2008 wireless spectrum auction).
The elimination of UHF channels, rather than VHF channels as in the rest of the world, precludes the use of band III (high VHF) for Digital Audio Broadcasting as is used in a few other countries. It also makes more difficult the reassignment of channels 5 and 6 (76 to 88 MHz) to expand the FM radio broadcast band. There are also no channels set aside for analog broadcasts of the Emergency Alert System, rendering most portable emergency TV sets useless. While a small number of portable ATSC sets have started to appear, these are costly. A portable converter box (such as Winegard's RCDT09A) would require a bulky external battery and mobile ATSC is not yet available. Another option to people would be getting a USB-based TV tuner card for their laptop computer, which in addition to its low costs became a popular option after Microsoft released Windows 7 four months after the DTV transition ended.
In March 2008, the FCC requested public comment on turning the bandwidth currently occupied by analog television channels 5 and 6 (76–88 MHz) over to extending the FM broadcast band when the digital television transition was to be completed in February 2009 (ultimately delayed to June 2009). This proposed allocation would effectively assign frequencies corresponding to the existing Japanese FM radio service (which begins at 76 MHz) for use as an extension to the existing North American FM broadcast band.
On August 22, 2011, the United States' Federal Communications Commission announced a freeze on all future applications for broadcast stations requesting to use channel 51, to prevent adjacent-channel interference (ACI) to the A-Block of the 700 MHz band. Later that year (on December 16, 2011), Industry Canada and the CRTC followed suit in placing a moratorium on future television stations using Channel 51 for broadcast use, to prevent ACI to the A-Block of the 700 MHz band.
Now that the switch from analog to digital broadcasts is complete, analog TVs are incapable of receiving over-the-air broadcasts without the addition of a set-top converter box. Consequently, a digital-to-analog converter, an electronic device that connects to an analog television, must be used in order to allow the television to receive digital broadcasts. The box may also be called a "set-top" converter, "digital TV adapter" (DTA), or "digital set-top box" (DSTB).
To assist consumers through the conversion, the Department of Commerce through its National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) division handled requests from households for up to two $40 coupons for digital-to-analog converter boxes beginning January 1, 2008 via a toll free number or a website. The program was paid for with a small part of the $20 billion taken in from the DTV spectrum auction. However, these government coupons were limited to an initial sum of $890 million (22,250,000 coupons) with the option to grow to $1.34 billion (33,500,000 coupons), which is far short of the estimated 112 million households (224 million redeemable coupons) in the United States. Nevertheless, not every household took advantage of the offer, as reports indicate half of all households already had at least one digital TV. In January 2009, the NTIA began placing coupon requests on a waiting list after the program reached its maximum allowed funding. New requests for coupons were fulfilled only after unredeemed coupons expired.
These coupons could be redeemed toward the purchase of a digital-to-analog converter at brick and mortar, on-line, and telephone retailers that had completed the NTIA certification process. Retail prices for the boxes range from $40 to $70 (plus tax and/or shipping); after applying the coupons, the price to the consumer would be between $5 and $40 per box. Because it was actually used as a payment, despite the name "coupon", consumers paid pay state and local sales tax on the coupon amount, which in effect reduced its value by about $3 (based on 7½% tax).
There has been possible evidence that the presence of the government coupon program has inflated the prices of converter boxes by between $21 and $34 above what they would be otherwise.These converter boxes requires royalties to be paid to license the MPEG-2 and ATSC patents, which may contribute (for example, the royalties for ATSC was $5 per receiver according to https://www.mpegla.com/wp-content/uploads/atscweb.pdf).
|DTV Delay Act|
|Long title||An act to postpone the DTV transition date.|
|Enacted by||the 111th United States Congress|
|Effective||February 11, 2009|
|Statutes at Large||123 Stat. 112–114|
|U.S.C. sections amended||47 U.S.C. § 309|
47 U.S.C. § 337
On January 21, 2009, Senator Jay Rockefeller introduced a bill in the Senate titled the DTV Delay Act because millions of Americans would not be ready for the cutoff on February 17 due to a shortage of converter box coupons, and planning that the transition date be moved to June 12. Rockefeller, chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, worked together on the bill. Hutchison supported the idea because Rockefeller did not intend to ask for another postponement. On January 22, The Nielsen Company said 6.5 million Americans had not prepared for the switch. Opponents pointed out that TV stations would face extra operating expenses, and those who paid to use the spectrum to be made available would have to wait.
Under later amendments, stations could choose to end analog broadcasts before June 12 even if the bill passed, and any frequencies freed up by such action could be used by fire and police departments and other emergency services. Those whose converter box coupons had expired would be allowed to apply for new coupons. The House postponed a similar bill (by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman), until the Senate's version was complete.
The Senate unanimously voted on January 26, 2009 to delay the digital TV transition to June 12, 2009. However, the House of Representatives voted on and defeated a similar measure on January 28. Rep. Joe Barton led the movement in the House to defeat the measure, saying that "the DTV transition is neither stuck nor broke", and that any problems with the DTV transition can be fixed. Barton also said, "I guarantee you, no matter when you set the date— February 17, June 12, July the Fourth, Valentine's Day— there are going to be some people that aren't ready."
The bill was submitted to President Obama on February 4, who did not immediately sign it into law. On February 9, President Obama posted the bill on whitehouse.gov, giving the public five days to weigh in on it. Under a midnight February 10 deadline imposed by the FCC, broadcasters disclosed whether they would still cease broadcasting analog signals on the original date of February 17, or if they would delay until June 12, should the DTV Delay Act be signed into law. On February 10, the FCC published the list. 491 stations stated they intended to transition on February 17. The FCC reserved final say on which stations would be allowed to transition on February 17 and which ones would be required to continue analog broadcasts, depending on how many viewers in each market have been determined not ready for the transition Owned & Operated stations of five major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and Telemundo, plus The CW, MyNetworkTV and independent stations owned by CBS and MyNetworkTV stations owned by Fox), as well as the station groups of Gannett, Hearst-Argyle and Meredith, committed to keeping all or most of their analog signals active until the new June 12 cutoff date. On February 11, 2009 President Obama signed the bill into law, officially moving the cutoff date to June 12, 2009. In total, 191 stations already had turned off their analog transmitters for good.
While 93 large-city network owned and operated stations (controlled by CBS, ABC, Fox TV and NBC) would continue analog broadcasts until June 12, many small-market broadcasters were unable to justify the extra cost, with non-commercial and independent stations very adversely affected. No funding was provided to reimburse broadcasters who incurred additional costs due to the DTV Delay Act.
Public Broadcasting Service CEO Paula Kerger had estimated a $22 million cost to the nation's PBS member stations to extend simulcasting until June 12; more than a hundred PBS stations ultimately elected to stick to the original deadline. Some individual commercial station groups, most notably Sinclair Broadcast Group and Gray Television, shut down the vast majority of their analog signals on the original deadline. Others left the question to their individual local stations. Many local markets, ranging from Burlington, Vermont and Sioux City, Iowa to San Diego, lost analog signals from most or all major U.S. stations. Some stations in coastal regions such as Fort Myers, Florida had chosen not to wait until June 12 so as to ensure transition is complete before hurricane season.
In some cases, the Federal Communications Commission forced stations to continue full-power analog broadcast of at least a local newscast and information on the digital transition for an additional sixty days – a costly move for individual affected broadcasters. Of 491 stations which had indicated their intention to go digital-only in February 2009, 123 affiliates of four major U.S. commercial networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) were targeted by Federal Communications Commission opposition, precluding or applying additional restrictions to the shutdown of their analog signals in markets where the only analog service remaining after the February 17 shutdown would have been an independent or educational broadcaster, an adjacent-market station or a low-power station. Of approximately 1800 U.S. full-service TV stations, an additional 190 were already digital-only before February 2009; these included Hawaii (digital since January 2009) and Wilmington, North Carolina (the FCC's 2008 digital test market), as well as some new stations and a few broadcasters forced to shut down analog early due to technical problems.
On April 12, Nielsen estimated that 3.6 million households remained unready; key problem markets (according to FCC and NTIA) included Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas–Fort Worth, Denver, Fresno, Houston, Brownsville, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis–St. Paul, Phoenix, Portland, Oregon, Tulsa, Sacramento, St. Louis, the San Francisco Bay Area, Salt Lake City and Seattle.
On February 11, 2009, the FCC announced it would allow 368 of the 491 applied stations to go all-digital on the original February 17 date, 100 of which will be allowed to use their analog signal to inform unprepared viewers of the new transition date, or for emergency situations such as severe weather (called "nightlighting"). The FCC concluded that the other 123 stations who applied present a "significant risk of substantial public harm," if they go all digital on February 17. The FCC stated "We considered the presence of major networks and their affiliates critical to ensuring that viewers have access to local news and public affairs available over the air because the major network affiliates are the primary source of local broadcast news and public affairs programming". The FCC would not permit the 123 stations in "at-risk" markets to proceed unless they certify with the agency by 6 pm ET on February 13 that they comply with eight additional requirements, including ensuring that at least one station that is currently providing analog service to an area within the DMA provides DTV transition and emergency information, as well as local news and public affairs programming ("enhanced nightlight" service) for at least 60 days following February 17.
On February 13, the FCC said 53 of the applied 106 at risk stations had qualified to go all digital on February 17. The other 43 qualified for nightlight service; 10 others could not comply with the nightlight clause. The total number stations which became digital only on February 17 was 421.
House Republican Joe Barton from Texas, who strongly opposed the DTV Delay Act (see above section for further details), introduced a bill that would insert $650 million in DTV transition assistance into The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to be used for making more converter box coupons available and for DTV education, which was strongly supported by the Obama administration. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 passed with this revision in the House with a vote of 244–188 on January 28, 2009, and the Senate passed the bill on February 10 by a vote of 61–37.
Congressional negotiators announced on February 11, 2009, that they had reached agreement on a $789 billion economic stimulus bill. President Obama signed the final $787 billion version into law on February 17, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The final version included the DTV provisions.
While the economic stimulus bill did allow additional funds for coupons, there was also a risk that available retail stock of the converter boxes themselves could prove inadequate. The Consumer Electronics Association had estimated three to six million boxes remained in-stock at the beginning of February 2009; Nielsen Media Research reported five million households as "completely unready" for digital transition in this same time period. The average U.S. household uses 3 television screens. However, the converter box coupon program only allows 2 coupons per household.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 also allocated funds for expert installation services for those switching to DTV.
The FCC awarded the contract to several companies to provide expert installation services.
On May 1, 2009, Nielsen Media Research reported that 3.1% of Americans were still completely unprepared for the transition. On June 11, 2009, one day before the analog shutoff, the National Association of Broadcasters reported that 1.75 million Americans were still not ready.
971 TV stations made the final switch to digital on June 12. It was believed Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Austin and Dallas would be the least prepared markets, but this turned out not to be the case, as most of the difficulties were in the Northeast, primarily with stations that changed their digital frequencies from UHF to VHF.
On June 13, 2009, the FCC said their help line, with about 4000 answering phones, received 317,450 calls on June 12. About one-third of callers still needed converter boxes, and one-fifth had reception problems. Acting FCC chair Michael Copps said, "Our job is far from over. This transition is not a one-day affair."
In New York City, about 11,000 people called the FCC for assistance, the most of any market. The other areas from which the most calls to the FCC were made: Chicago (6526), Los Angeles (5473), Dallas-Fort Worth (5473), and Philadelphia (3749). 900,000 calls were received in all.
The National Association of Broadcasters said 278 TV stations received 35,500 calls, but most callers merely needed to rescan.
The Commerce Department said 319,900 requested converter box coupons on June 11, almost four times the average during the previous month.
SmithGeiger LLC said 2.2 million homes were not ready, while Nielsen said the number was 2.8 million. This included homes which had requested coupons. On June 14, Nielsen said the number was 2.5 million, or 2.2 percent of homes. That number was down to 2.1 million, or 1.8 percent, by June 21, and 1.7 million, or 1.5 percent, a week later. One month after the transition, the number was 1.5 million, 1.3 percent, and after nearly 2 months, the number was down to just over one million, or 1.1 percent. As of August 30, 2009, the number was 710,000, as 572,000 had upgraded in August and 1.8 million since June 12.
In some cases where digital frequencies moved, people have been advised not only to re-scan but to "double-scan", in order to clear outdated information from the digital TV or converter box memory.
Calls to the FCC decreased from 43,000 a day in the week ending June 15 to 21,000 the next week. Reception problems, representing nearly a third of calls at first, were down to one-fifth.
On June 15, 2009, U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, introduced the House version of The Digital TV Transition Fairness Act, which Senator Bernie Sanders introduced in December 2008. It would require video service providers to offer a $10 basic package to anyone who lost at least one channel to the DTV conversion (with broadcasters waiving fees), pay for outdoor antennas (including installation) and extend the converter box program beyond July 31. It did not pass.
One of the most common problems was the return to VHF frequencies by stations that had used them when they were analog. Over 480 stations were broadcasting digitally on the VHF spectrum after the transition, up from only 216 on the frequencies before. Many antennas marketed for digital TV are designed for UHF, which most digital stations use. VHF analog signals travel further than UHF signals, but watchable VHF digital signals appear to have a more limited range than UHF with the lower power they are assigned, and they don't penetrate buildings as well, especially in larger cities. Mike Doback, vice president of engineering for Scripps Television, said, "It’s only now that we’ve found out the planning factors were probably wrong in terms of how much power you need to replicate analog service." According to TV consultant Peter Putman, the problem with VHF reception is that VHF antennas must be large to be effective, and indoor antennas do not perform well enough. In addition, channels 2 through 6 are more susceptible to many types of interference. Richard Mertz of Cavell, Mertz & Associates says multipath interference inside the house is also a factor. Some receivers can deal with this problem better than others, but there are no standards. And with amplified antennas or amplifiers, it is possible to overload a converter box. Amplifiers can also cause noise that is interpreted as data. Raycom Media Chief Technology Officer Dave Folsom said, "There’s nothing inherently wrong with VHF. It’s just easier to have interference, because it goes out further."
The FCC sent extra personnel to Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City to deal with difficulties in those cities. WLS-TV had received 1,735 calls just by the end of the day on June 12, and an estimated 5000 calls in total by June 16. WLS-TV is just one station which may solve its problems by increasing its signal strength, but doing this required making sure no other stations are affected. A low-power analog station, not required to shut down after 30 days like other nightlight stations, aired newscasts that could not be seen by a number of people after the transition, while the stations attempted to solve problems.
In Philadelphia, most of the problems were with WPVI-TV, which had the area's leading news program, and public station WHYY-TV. Many people having trouble with those stations could pick up stations from Reading and Atlantic City. Unlike WLS, WPVI had concerns about increasing its signal because of potential interference to other stations and to FM radio.
In New York City, many called the FCC because they lived in apartment buildings with a single roof antenna which was not suitable for digital reception. The city reported antenna shortages and numerous requests for cable service.
By the end of June, four stations had received permission to increase power. Ten other stations asked for power increases as well, but these were not in major cities; instead, the markets were in rural or mountainous areas such as Montana, Virginia, and Alabama. KNMD-TV in Santa Fe tried an alternate VHF channel.
The FCC had two concerns about the requests for more power: some stations just wanted a competitive advantage and were not actually experiencing difficulties. Other stations wanted UHF frequencies instead because UHF worked better with mobile digital TV. However, some stations with legitimate problems have asked to return to their UHF frequencies.
"Approximately a half-dozen stations" were still deciding at the end of October about what to do. In some of the cases where stations returned to UHF, interference to nearby stations prevented a power increase.
Ironically, KUAC-TV in Fairbanks, Alaska moved from channel 24 back to channel 9 in September 2009. The area never had UHF before DTV, so most people had VHF antennas, while few people lived in apartment buildings. The higher power needed for UHF cost too much, and channel 24 had signal problems, so the station asked to move back.
Of 79 stations asking for a new channel, 22 wanted to go from VHF to UHF, and 10 wanted to go from UHF to VHF.
On June 30, his first day as FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski said in a speech that the transition "succeeded far beyond expectations. You pulled it off by working collaboratively with each other across the agency, and with the Commerce Department and other parts of government, and by thinking creatively to leverage all available resources."
Still, the FCC planned a report on how well the transition went, and Genachowski admitted more work was needed.
Genachowski's predecessor Michael Copps called the process
A huge transition with significant impact on consumers that was not until the last moment adequately planned for or coordinated. [It was] a transition that led to problems that were largely predictable and one that we moved measurably forward from January to June to the benefit of many consumers. But it's not a closed book. It is ongoing. There are still problems out there, lessons to be learned and a document to write.
In September 2010, the FCC announced a proposal to set a hard deadline of 2012 for low power stations to broadcast in digital, though this deadline was not adopted.
On July 15, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission issued a final ruling regarding Broadcast translator (TX), Low-powered (LP), and Class-A low-powered (-CA) stations, requiring that analog transmitters shut down by September 1, 2015. Transmitters on channels 52 to 69 were required to vacate their channels by December 31, 2011, but may remain in analog on another channel until the September 1, 2015 deadline. As part of the rules that were imposed, low power VHF stations on channels 2 to 6 can transmit with a maximum ERP 3 kW instead of the previously allowed maximum of 0.3 kW.
On August 13, 2009, the Community Broadcasters Association (CBA) announced in a statement that it would shut down after 20 years of representing LPTV stations. One reason given was the cost required to fight "restrictive regulations that kept the Class A and LPTV industry from realizing its potential," including the campaign to require analog passthrough, a converter box feature that allows both digital and analog television to be viewed on older TVs. Amy Brown, former CBA executive director, said, "some 40% of Class A and LPTV station operators believe they will have to shut down in the next year if they are not helped through the digital transition." On April 24, 2015, the requirement for broadcast translator (TX) and low-powered (-LP) stations to convert by September 1 of that year was suspended, pending the then-upcoming spectrum auction. After the auction's completion in 2017, on May 17 of that year the FCC announced July 13, 2021 as the new analog low-power shutoff date.
The study of how to increase spectrum for wireless broadband began in 2009. Some plans called for eliminating broadcast TV entirely, but opponents of such a plan said the efforts made during the DTV transition would become pointless. By 2010, voluntary efforts were planned. Sharing channels, made possible by the first transition, was approved in 2012. A spectrum auction planned for 2014 (and delayed to 2016) became the first step in what amounted to a second digital transition.
Certain commenters have urged the Commission to give a "hard look" to a proposal that the Commission re-allocate TV Channels 5 and 6 for FM broadcasting73 FR 28400, 28403
The 2009 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament was a tournament involving 65 schools playing in a single-elimination tournament to determine the national champion of men's NCAA Division I college basketball as a culmination of the 2008–09 basketball season. It began on March 17, 2009, and concluded with the championship game on April 6 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, where the University of North Carolina defeated Michigan State to become the champion. The 2009 tournament marked the first time for a Final Four having a minimum seating capacity of 70,000 and by having most of the tournament in the February Sweeps of the Nielsen Ratings due to the digital television transition in the United States on June 12, 2009, which also made this the last NCAA Basketball Tournament, in all three divisions, to air in analog television. The University of Detroit Mercy hosted the Final Four, which was the 71st edition.
Prior to the start of the tournament, the top ranked team was Louisville in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Polls, followed by North Carolina, Memphis, and Pittsburgh. Only the Tar Heels of North Carolina were the regional winners and played in the Final Four. The Tar Heels completed one of the most dominant runs in the tournament's history by winning each of their games by at least twelve points.
For the first time since seeding began, all #1-#3 seeds made it into the Sweet 16, and for the third consecutive time, all #1 seeds made the Elite Eight.
Four schools made their NCAA tournament debut, all respective conference champions: Binghamton (America East), Morgan State (MEAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), and North Dakota State (Summit), a school in its first season of Division I eligibility.CHEK-DT
CHEK-DT, virtual channel 6 (UHF digital channel 49), is an independent television station located in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, which serves the southwestern part of the province (including Metro Vancouver). The station is owned by the CHEK Media Group, a consortium made up of station employees and local investors. CHEK maintains studio facilities located on Kings Road in Victoria, and its transmitter is located atop Mount Warburton Pike on Saturna Island.
On cable, the station is also available on Shaw Cable channel 6 and Bell TV channel 255. On satellite, the station is available on Shaw Direct Classic tier channel 358 or Advanced tier channel 006. There is also a high definition feed available on Shaw Cable digital channel 215, and Shaw Direct Classic tier channel 005 and Advanced tier channel 505. Optik TV, IPTV channel 121 (HD), channel 9121 (SD).Channel 6 radio stations in the United States
This is a list of low-power television stations in the United States that operate on VHF channel 6 as radio stations. This is because the audio on NTSC-M channel 6 can be picked up on 87.75 FM on the radio dial; as the FM radio bandplan is separated by odd-numbered 0.2 MHz intervals, these stations, also colloquially known as "Franken-FMs" (in analogy with Frankenstein's monster) usually market their radio frequency as "87.7". These stations are still required to play some sort of video signal to comply with FCC regulations; it does not specify what kind of signal it must be, and thus the video usually consists of still frames, test patterns or unrelated silent films (such stations can still carry audio programming through their SAP feeds, although none do as of 2019). As low-power stations, they are excluded from educational and informational programming mandates and are thus (unlike full-power stations, Class A stations and their digital subchannels) not required to interrupt their program schedules for three hours of educational children's programming per week.
Until the 2009 digital television transition in the United States, full-power stations on channel 6 could also be heard on the same frequency. Digital television's format, in contrast, is incompatible with both U.S. analog radio and the U.S. digital standard (the in-band on-channel HD Radio). Low-power broadcasters face a deadline in July 2021 to convert to digital, which will end the stations' operations on radio.DTV Border Fix Act
The DTV Border Fix Act was a bill introduced to the U.S. Congress in 2007. It would have allowed all television stations within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the Mexican border, in areas such as San Diego and the Rio Grande Valley, to keep their analog signals active for another five years. The bill passed the Senate but did not pass the House.Distributed transmission system
In North American digital terrestrial television broadcasting, a distributed transmission system (DTS or DTx) is a form of single-frequency network in which a single broadcast signal is fed via microwave, landline, or communications satellite to multiple synchronised terrestrial radio transmitter sites. The signal is then simultaneously broadcast on the same frequency in different overlapping portions of the same coverage area, effectively combining many small transmitters to generate a broadcast area rivalling that of one large transmitter or to fill gaps in coverage due to terrain or localised obstacles.Ernie Harwell
William Earnest "Ernie" Harwell (January 25, 1918 – May 4, 2010) was an American sportscaster, known for his long career calling play-by-play of Major League Baseball games. For 55 seasons, 42 of them with the Detroit Tigers, Harwell called the action on radio and/or television. In January 2009, the American Sportscasters Association ranked Harwell 16th on its list of Top 50 Sportscasters of All Time.KESQ-TV
KESQ-TV is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Palm Springs, California, United States and serving the Coachella Valley in California's Inland Empire. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and UHF channel 42 from a transmitter on Edom Hill northeast of Cathedral City and I-10.
Owned by the News-Press & Gazette Company, it is a sister station to Cathedral City-licensed Class A CBS affiliate KPSP-CD (channel 38), Class A Fox affiliate KDFX-CD (channel 33.2, licensed to both Indio and Palm Springs), Palm Springs-licensed low-powered CW affiliate KCWQ-LD (channel 2), and Indio-licensed low-powered Telemundo affiliate KUNA-LP (channel 15); this existing co-ownership of all these five stations allows for KESQ to also be used to offer full-market over-the-air standard definition simulcasts of KPSP-CD (simulcast over KESQ-DT2), KDFX-CD (simulcast over KESQ-DT4), KUNA-LP (simulcast over KESQ-DT7), and KCWQ-LD (simulcast over KESQ-DT8), to better serve viewers throughout the market that don't subscribe to either cable or satellite television services. The five stations share studios on Dunham Way in Thousand Palms.
Along with other major Coachella Valley television stations, KESQ identifies itself on-air using its cable designation (News Channel 3) rather than its over-the-air channel position. The unusual practice stems in part from the area's exceptionally high cable penetration rate of 80.5% which is one of the highest in the United States.KESQ can be seen over-the-air on analog translator K15FC (channel 15) in Joshua Tree, which extends the station's coverage in Twentynine Palms to the east. Until its license was cancelled on September 29, 2017, K27DS (channel 27) was a translator of KESQ licensed to Yucca Valley and covering west of Morongo Valley in the San Bernardino National Forest along the San Bernardino and Riverside county line. All these cities are within the Los Angeles market.KWWT
KWWT, virtual and UHF digital channel 30, is a MeTV-affiliated television station licensed to Odessa, Texas, United States and serving the Permian Basin area. The station is owned by JB Broadcasting. KWWT's studios are located on East 37th Street in Odessa, and its transmitter is located on SH 158 near Gardendale, Texas.NFL Color Rush
The NFL Color Rush was a promotion done in conjunction with the National Football League (NFL) and Nike that promotes so-called "color vs. color" matchups with teams in matchup-specific uniforms that are primarily one solid color with alternating colored accents, primarily airing on Thursday Night Football. Despite being promoted as color vs. color, some games had one team wearing traditional white uniforms, either by choice or out of necessity. The uniforms did not count against each team with regards to their allowed alternate uniform allotment. The games received mixed responses from fans, with some praising the NFL for changing up their games in terms of uniforms, while others criticized the promotion for some of its garish uniforms. The promotion was officially discontinued for the 2018 NFL season, but many teams continue to wear the Color Rush uniforms and promote them heavily, notably the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers.NTSC
NTSC, named after the National Television System Committee, is the analog television color system that was used in North America from 1954 and until digital conversion, was used in most of the Americas (except Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and French Guiana); Myanmar; South Korea; Taiwan; Philippines; Japan; and some Pacific island nations and territories (see map).
The first NTSC standard was developed in 1941 and had no provision for color. In 1953 a second NTSC standard was adopted, which allowed for color television broadcasting which was compatible with the existing stock of black-and-white receivers. NTSC was the first widely adopted broadcast color system and remained dominant until the 2000s, when it started to be replaced with different digital standards such as ATSC and others.
Most countries using the NTSC standard, as well as those using other analog television standards, have switched to, or are in process of switching to newer digital television standards, there being at least four different standards in use around the world. North America, parts of Central America, and South Korea are adopting or have adopted the ATSC standards, while other countries (such as Japan) are adopting or have adopted other standards instead of ATSC. After nearly 70 years, the majority of over-the-air NTSC transmissions in the United States ceased on January 1, 2010, and by August 31, 2011 in Canada and most other NTSC markets. The majority of NTSC transmissions ended in Japan on July 24, 2011, with the Japanese prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima ending the next year. After a pilot program in 2013, most full-power analog stations in Mexico left the air on ten dates in 2015, with some 500 low-power and repeater stations allowed to remain in analog until the end of 2016. Digital broadcasting allows higher-resolution television, but digital standard definition television continues to use the frame rate and number of lines of resolution established by the analog NTSC standard.Sign-on and sign-off
A sign-on (or start-up in Commonwealth countries) is the beginning of operations for a radio or television station, generally at the start of each day. It is the opposite of a sign-off (or closedown in Commonwealth countries), which is the sequence of operations involved when a radio or television station shuts down its transmitters and goes off the air for a predetermined period; generally, this occurs during the overnight hours although a broadcaster's digital specialty channels or sub-channels may start up and closedown at significantly different times as its main channels.Sling Media
Sling Media Inc. is a technology company that develops placeshifting and Smart TV solutions for consumers, multiple-system operators and set top box manufacturers. The company is based in Foster City, California, and was a subsidiary of EchoStar Corporation (acquired in the fall of 2007). Their initial product, the Slingbox, debuted on the US market on July 1, 2005. The EchoStar business unit was part of a corporate assets exchange with Dish Network at the beginning of 2017 and now operates as Dish Technologies Corporation under Dish Network.WDAZ-TV
WDAZ-TV is an ABC-affiliated television station serving Grand Forks, North Dakota, United States. Licensed to Devils Lake, it broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and VHF channel 8 from a 1,460.2-foot (445.1 m) tall transmitter tower near Dahlen, located roughly between Grand Forks and Devils Lake.
On cable, the station can be seen on channel 8 in most areas. There is a high definition feed provided on Midcontinent Communications digital channel 608 and Polar Communications digital channel 601. WDAZ is widely carried on cable in the Canadian province of Manitoba, including the cities of Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, Steinbach, Winkler, and Kenora, Ontario.
Owned by Forum Communications of Fargo, which also owns the Grand Forks Herald, WDAZ operates a news bureau and sales office on South Washington Street in Grand Forks. Identifying as a separate station in its own right, WDAZ is a semi-satellite of sister station and company flagship WDAY-TV (channel 6) in Fargo. It simulcasts all of WDAY's network and syndicated programming, but airs separate identifications and commercials. WDAZ serves the northern half of the Fargo–Grand Forks market, while WDAY-TV serves the southern half. Master control and other internal operations are performed from WDAY-TV's studios on South 8th Street in Fargo.WDSE
WDSE is a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member television station licensed to Duluth, Minnesota, United States, serving northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. It broadcasts a high definition digital signal on virtual and VHF channel 8 from a transmitter west of downtown Duluth in Hilltop Park. Owned by the Duluth–Superior Area Educational Television Corporation, the station has studios located on rented space at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
WDSE also operates satellite station WRPT, virtual and UHF digital channel 31 in Hibbing, Minnesota, to serve the Minnesota Iron Range communities. WRPT's transmitter is located at Maple Hill Park south of Hibbing.WFHW-LP
WFHW-LP was a low-powered community-oriented television station licensed to Buffalo, New York, founded by consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader in late 1988 as W58AV on UHF 58. The station broadcast from the top of the Marine Midland Bank Tower (now One HSBC Center) in downtown Buffalo, with an initial power of 100 watts (later upgraded to 1000, and finally, 15,100 watts). From the beginning, the station aired a large amount of locally produced fare, with programming from Channel America, as well as a partnership with The Learning Channel. By 1991, the station had partnered up with Medaille College, though this would only last until January 1, 1993.At some point in the mid-1990s, the station upgraded from translator to low-powered television status, and changed its call letters to WFHW-LP after what would become its last operator, the local branch of the non-profit Friendship House. The station ceased operations in the late 1990s after the Friendship House ceased operations, several years before the Digital television transition in the United States. Channel 58 would not be reissued; it would later be allocated to WJET-TV/Erie, Pennsylvania as a temporary digital channel prior to the transition, after which it (along with all stations between 52 and 69) would be removed from the television spectrum.WMWC-TV
WMWC-TV is a TBN owned-and-operated television station licensed to Galesburg, Illinois, United States, serving the Quad Cities area of northwestern Illinois and southeastern Iowa. It broadcasts a standard definition digital signal on VHF channel 8 (or virtual channel 53 via PSIP) from a transmitter in Orion, Illinois. Owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network, WMWC-TV maintains studio facilities on 44th Avenue in Moline. On cable, the station is available on Mediacom channel 17 in the Quad Cities and Comcast Xfinity channels 98 and 277 in Galesburg.WRCX-LP
WRCX-LP is a low-power television station in Dayton, Ohio, broadcasting locally on channel 40. Founded August 24, 1987 as WUCT, the station is owned by Ross Communications, Ltd.WSYT
WSYT, virtual channel 68 (UHF digital channel 19), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Syracuse, New York, United States. The station is owned by Northwest Broadcasting, as part of a duopoly with MyNetworkTV affiliate WNYS-TV (channel 43). The two stations share studios on James Street/NY 290 in Syracuse's Near Northeast section and transmitter facilities near Maple Grove, a hamlet of Otisco.
WSYT operates a digital Class A translator, W16AX-D, in Ithaca. This station broadcasts on UHF channel 16 (also remapping to virtual channel 68 via PSIP) from a transmitter, on the Ithaca College campus, along NY 96B in Eastern South Hill.WWPS-LP
WWPS-LP was an affiliate of Cornerstone Television in Kinnelon, New Jersey. The station broadcast to Morris County, New Jersey on VHF channel 9.
Digital television in North America