TV Eye

The Deets on DTV

Thanks for the memories
Thanks for the memories

At midnight on Feb. 17, broadcast, over-the-air television as we know it will change forever. Some of you will turn on your TV and won't notice a thing. Some of you might see a screen filled with snow if you are not properly prepared. Since a couple of people have asked me about what to expect on Feb. 17 – otherwise known as DTV transition day – I thought it useful to revisit the subject.

The DTV transition day is when broadcast TV officially switches from analog to digital transmission. Televisions manufactured and sold after March 1, 2007, should have no problem picking up the new digital transmission. (Not that you need to know, but the new transmission is called ATSC. That stands for Advanced Television Systems Committee. The old transmission is called NTSC, National Television System Committee.) Check the warranty that came with your TV. It should indicate if it's digital ready, but to make sure, check the manufacture date (not the date you purchased the TV). If the manufacture date is prior to March 1, 2007, your TV might need some help picking up the new digital signal.

You can do this by purchasing a digital converter box. They cost around $40, and you can buy them at most electronics stores or anywhere you buy a TV. The Federal Communications Commission was distributing coupons to allow users to purchase the converter box, but it ran out of funds at the end of last year. You can get on the waiting list online at However, as many of those who may not have online access (the elderly, the poor) are the least likely to do this and the most likely to be affected when the DTV conversion occurs, President Obama had asked to postpone the DTV transmission until additional funds are found to provide more coupons. The Senate voted for a delay on Monday, but the House defeated the bill yesterday.

Procrastinators take note: If you ordered a coupon to purchase a digital converter box and haven't gotten around to it, your coupon might be dead. The coupon – which looks like a credit card and functions like a gift card – expires after 90 days. The good news is that your unused funds go back into the pot to recharge coupons to distribute to other procrastinators on the waiting list.

If you subscribe to cable or satellite service, you do not need to buy a converter box. Your TV should work just fine after the conversion. And while it seems like a good excuse to get that HDTV, it's not a necessary purchase to watch TV in the DTV age. As mentioned above, a TV manufactured after March 1, 2007, should be able to pick up the new digital signal. In fact, it's required by law to do so.

If you have additional questions about the DTV transition or would like to get on the waiting list for a digital converter box coupon, use one of these sources:

Go online:

Call: 888/DTV-2009 (888/388-2009). English TTY: 877/530-2634. Spanish TTY: 866/495-1161.

Out With the Old

So, you convinced yourself to buy a new HDTV, but what to do with the old TV? Please don't put it in the Dumpster where it will become another piece of toxic e-waste. You have options, thanks to the joint efforts of the Texas Campaign for the Environment and the TakeBack My TV Campaign. Panasonic, Sharp, and Toshiba have announced a free, nationwide recycling program with 280 drop-off locations in all 50 states, according to a message sent by the Texas Campaign for the Environment earlier this month.

To find a location where you can dump off your old set, go to

The Texas Campaign is also working to pass a TV TakeBack bill during the Texas legislative session, while continuing work to convince the U.S. Congress to stop exporting toxic e-waste.

To find out more on what the Texas Campaign for the Environment is up to, check out its website at

What Else Is On?

Austin Lyric Opera's production of Cinderella will air on KLRU thanks to a new collaboration between the ALO and KLRU's iN The Nov. 12 Long Center performance was recorded in preparation for TV broadcast. The ALO production of Rossini's Cinderella airs Sunday, Feb. 1, at 1pm on KLRU.

As always, stay tuned.

E-mail Belinda Acosta at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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DTV, digital converter box, TakeBack My TV Campaign, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Austin Lyric Opera, Cinderella, iN

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