Digital TV FAQ

WILX - TV in Onondaga, Lansing, Jackson Michigan ceased analog service on February 16, 2009, a date prior to the nation's new June 12, 2009 DTV transition date. WILX continues to provide digital television service and will do so up to and after February 16, 2009.

If you watch WILX on an analog TV with a set top antenna ("rabbit ears") or a rooftop antenna, you can continue to receive the station by using a digital-to-analog converter box, subscribing to cable or satellite service, or buying a TV with a digital tuner. Digital-to-analog converter boxes are available at many area consumer electronics stores.

To register comments, or for more information concerning the DTV transition, converter boxes, and how you can continue to receive DTV programming in the Charleston-Huntington television market, call the FCC at 1-888-225-5322. You may also write with your questions about WILX or NBC programming to dtv@WILX.com or to WILX, 500 American Road, Lansing, MI 48911. You cannot purchase converter boxes at this location.

WILX offers two full time digital channels of programming. On channel 10.1, you will receive the WILX local and NBC High Definition programming. On channel 10.2, you will receive Weathersource programming.

With the proper antenna, you can receive free, over-the-air digital TV with higher picture and sound quality and have more channels of free programming.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.

Q. I heard there is a new transition date of June 12. What happened?

A. The U.S. Congress approved an extension of the DTV transition deadline from February 17 to June 12. This means all full-power television stations must complete their switch from analog to digital broadcasting by June 12. The FCC instructed WILX to terminate analog service on February 16th

Q. What is digital television (DTV)?

A. Digital television (DTV) is a new type of broadcasting technology that is transforming television as we know it. By transmitting information as "data bits" (like a computer) to create a TV set's picture and sound, a digital broadcaster can carry far more information than what analog broadcast technology currently allows. The difference between analog and digital broadcasting is similar to that between compact discs and cassette tapes.

Digital TV offers a better viewing experience with vastly improved picture and sound quality. DTV is also more efficient than analog TV technology, so broadcasters will be able to produce additional channels of programming using digital broadcasting technology.

Q. What do I need to do to now to receive the new digital TV signal?

A. You need to take one of three steps.

1. Subscribe to cable, satellite or other pay TV service that carries the local broadcast stations you want. NOTE: at this time satellite service in the Lansing/Jackson market does not offer Weathersource, WILX's channel 10-point-2.
2. Purchase a digital-to-analog converter box that plugs into your existing TV set. The boxes, which cost between $40-70, are available for purchase at most electronics retailers through out our region. Households can request up to two $40 coupons towards the purchase of converter boxes that will allow you to continue watching free "over-the-air" television on an analog set. You can apply for coupons by calling 1-888-388-2009. NOTE the government has to “reauthorize” the coupon program. You will be placed on a waiting list and it is estimated that it may take 8-10 weeks or more before you would receive the coupon.
3. Purchase a new television set with a built-in digital tuner.
Taking one of these steps ensures that "over-the-air" television consumers will continue to receive programming.

Q. Do I need to purchase a TV converter box that is the same brand as my TV?

A. No, the brand of converter box can be different from that of your TV set.

Q. Can I hook up more than one TV set and video recorder to a single digital-to-analog converter box?

A. No, you will need one digital-to-analog converter box for each TV set or other device (such as a VCR) that only has an analog tuner.

Q. Will I receive closed captioning through a converter box?

A. Yes. Coupon-eligible converter box manufacturers are required to provide closed captioning for display on your television, but the features provided vary by box. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has produced a guide that lists selected features, including closed captioning, for a number of converter boxes. The guide is updated periodically as new converter boxes become available. Available at www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/converterboxfeatures.html

Q. After plugging in my converter box, I see black or gray bars on the sides or all the way around my picture. Why doesn't the picture fill up the TV screen?

A. Simply put, your converter box may be having trouble determining the shape of the picture and how to best display it on your existing TV set. Traditional analog TV sets have a square-shaped screen, and some digital programming is still being produced in this shape, which should fill the screen on your TV. However, many digital programs are now produced with widescreen pictures intended for viewing on digital TV sets with wider screens. It is due to these differences in picture shape that creates bars around your picture.

You can remove or reduce the size of the bars by using a button on the converter box remote control that changes the way a picture is displayed. Find the button marked "zoom" or "aspect ratio," and keep pressing it until the picture looks right. You may need to change the setting for different programs. Please note that widescreen programs are meant to have bars on the top and bottom when viewed on a square-shaped screen, but no programs should have bars all the way around the picture.

Q. After plugging in the converter box, I lost my reception. Why did this happen?

A. If you hook up the box and lose signals from full-power stations, the problem is most likely with your antenna. Because some stations broadcast in analog in the VHF band, a simple VHF antenna-like “rabbit ears” can pick up the signals. However, if the stations' digital signals are in the UHF band, then rabbit-ear antennas won't be able to pick them up. You will need a VHF/UHF antenna (rabbit ears plus a loop antenna) to pick up both digital and analog signals. Depending on where you live and where your TV set is in your house, you may need an outdoor antenna. Check www.antennaweb.org or http://tvfool.com to find out how far the local stations are from your house.

Q. After installing my converter box, I lost some of the channels I used to get. What should I do?

A. After hooking up a converter box to your TV set, or installing a new digital TV set, you will need to scan (also known as "auto-tune") for new channels to make sure you receive all of the digital stations broadcasting in your area. While some boxes do this automatically, you may need to select scan manually.

Because some digital stations that are already on air are moving to different channel numbers after the DTV transition, you may need to rescan now to ensure that you receive all of the digital stations broadcasting in your area.

Q. For what types of situations do I need to rescan?

A. You should rescan your converter box or TV set for channels when installing equipment for the first time, after repositioning or moving an antenna around. Since some digital stations are still coming on air, you may want to consider rescanning on a periodic basis to get all of the digital programming available.

Q. I'm a cable customer. Will I be affected by the transition?

A. Television sets connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service generally will not require a converter box. Cable subscribers should check with their providers to answer questions about their service.

Q. Do cable customers with analog TV sets have to buy or rent a set-top box (converter box) from their cable company? If so, how much will it cost?

A. First, it's important to know that the deadline for the digital television transition only applies to full-power broadcast stations. The government does not require cable companies to transition their systems to digital. They can continue to deliver channels to their customers using analog signals. Actually, cable companies are required under FCC rules to offer local broadcast stations to their customers in analog, as long as they offer any analog service. This requirement will continue for at least three years after June 12, 2009. The FCC will decide in 2011 whether the requirement should be extended beyond June 12, 2012. This means that customers who receive analog cable service (without a cable set-top box) will be able to continue doing so.

Q. Can I keep my older analog TV set?

A. Yes. A digital-to-analog converter box will allow you to continue using your existing analog TV set to watch over-the-air digital programming. If your analog set is hooked up to a subscription service, such as cable or satellite TV, it should continue to function as before. Analog sets should also continue working with gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players and similar products that you use now.

Q. How do I know whether my TV set is analog or digital?

A. All television sets manufactured after March 1, 2007 contain a digital tuner. That’s everything from small 12” standard definition sets for your kitchen or work bench all the way up to the big 50+” high definition sets. Look for the ATSC label on the box or back of the television set.

Q.Which converter boxes have analog pass-through?

Many converter boxes offer analog pass-through. Look for “Analog Pass-Through” on the converter box package or ask a clerk in the store.

Q. What is analog television?

A. Analog television service is the traditional method of transmitting TV signals and has been the standard broadcast technology since the inception of television. Analog television service isn't as efficient as DTV. It uses up much more valuable spectrum that once the DTV transition is completed will be used for emergency service communications and other purposes.

Q. Why is America switching to DTV?

A. An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for emergency and first responder communication services. Also, some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies, so they can provide consumers with more advanced wireless services, such as wireless broadband.

Consumers also benefit, because digital broadcasting allows stations to offer improved picture and sound quality. Digital is much more efficient than analog. For example, rather than being limited to providing one analog program, a broadcaster is able to offer a super-sharp "high definition" (HD) digital program or multiple "standard definition" (SD) digital programs simultaneously through a process called "multicasting."

Q. What is multicasting?

A. Using the same amount of spectrum required for one analog program, multicasting allows broadcast stations to offer several channels of digital programming at the same time. For example, WILX broadcasting in analog on channel 10 is only able to offer viewers one program. However, WILX broadcasting in digital on channel 10 offers viewers a digital program on channel 10-point-1, a second digital program Weathersource on channel 10-point-2. In the future there could be additional programming offered on channel 10-point-3 and so on. This means viewers get more programming choices.

Q. Many blind and visually impaired people rely on radios that receive TV audio bands. After the transition, those radios won't be able to receive TV broadcasts. How is this being addressed?

A. We're not aware of anyone working on an adapter for this. One option is you could buy a digital converter box and connect just the audio output to an auxiliary input on a radio that has such an input. However, this is a rather cumbersome arrangement, at least for the non-visually impaired, since most converter boxes don't have a display that shows what channel you are tuned to, and navigation would be limited solely to channel up and down keys.

Q. What is a TV converter box?

A. TV converter box is a stand-alone device that allows your antenna to receive and convert digital signals into a format analog television sets can display. This newly designed product is now available in stores nationwide. A TV converter box is a one-time purchase and costs between $40 and $70.

Q. How do I install a TV converter box?

A. Depending on your TV, converter boxes plug into either the back or front of the set. You will still need an antenna, which works with the TV converter box. Each TV converter box comes with installation instructions from the manufacturer.

Q. How much do I have to pay for a TV converter box?

A. TV converter boxes are available in retail stores across our region. They cost between $40 and $70. The federal government is giving every U.S. household up to two $40 coupons to help pay for the cost of the converter box. See Coupon Information below about the converter box coupon program.

Q. Does someone have to come to my home to install the converter box?

A. No, you should be able to install the converter box yourself using the instructions provided by the manufacturer. For specific questions, call the manufacturer's technical support hotline or ask your local retailer.

Q. How big is the converter box?

A. Converter boxes are about the size of a paperback book. Most will fit on top of a small to medium-sized TV set.

COUPON PROGRAM

Q. What is the TV converter box coupon program?

A. Congress created a TV converter box coupon program for households that want to continue using their analog TV. The program allows U.S. households to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40, which can be applied toward the cost of eligible converter boxes.

On January 4, 2009, the Coupon Program reached its authorized funding ceiling. However, coupon requests from eligible households are still being accepted. Applications are placed on a waiting list, and will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis as funds become available from expiring coupons. You will not receive coupons until funds become available.

For that reason the Coupon Program cannot accept requests to replace lost, stolen or expired coupons at this time. NTIA will move quickly to change the program if Congress authorizes additional funding. The website will be updated to alert the public if funding becomes available

If your application is approved, you can use the automatically-generated reference number to return to this website and check the status of your request. At this time, consumers who try to reapply for a coupon which has expired or was lost or stolen will be denied. Consumers should check the website to learn if and when the Coupon Program can accept requests to replace coupons which are lost, stolen or expired.

Consumers who have an analog TV and rely on a rooftop antenna or rabbit ears to receive their programs are encouraged to take action to ensure at least one TV in their home is prepared for the digital television transition. You may:

• Purchase a TV converter box without a coupon;

• Buy a TV with a digital tuner, or;

• Subscribe to cable, satellite or other pay TV service.

Q. How do I get my coupons?

A. Between now and March 31, 2009, consumers can apply for up to two $40 coupons per household by calling 1-888-388-2009, by applying online at www.DTV2009.gov or by mailing an application to P.O. Box 2000, Portland, OR 97208-2000. Applicants will receive their coupons in the mail.

Q. Where can I use my coupons?

A. When your coupon comes in the mail, it will include an insert that lists nearby participating retailers. These retailers are likely to be stores where you commonly go to buy electronics products.

Q. What does the TV converter box coupon look like?

A. Coupons look like plastic credit cards or gift cards that are widely used by the retail industry. Unlike gift cards, TV converter box coupons do not carry a stored value and can only be used towards the purchase of eligible TV converter boxes.

Q. Are all consumers eligible for the coupon program?

A. Yes, every U.S. household is eligible, but supplies are limited. See question above about availability.)

Q. Will the government use my name and address for any other purpose?

A. No. Your personal information is protected under privacy laws and will not be sold or used for purposes other than administering the NTIA coupon program.

Q. Can I apply for people who are unable to apply for themselves, such as an elderly parent?

A. Yes, but you will need to use that person's home address, which will be validated for eligibility. Only two coupons will be issued per U.S. household address, and the coupons are intended for the resident of that household.

Q. What if I have my mail sent to a post office box?

A. Under the coupon program's current rules, the government will only mail coupons to post office boxes in areas without home mail delivery, but that may change soon, the NTIA filed a proposed rulemaking that would allow people who use post office boxes to qualify for converter box coupons.

Q. Can I use my coupon to purchase other consumer electronics products, such as DVD recorders or televisions?

A. No, coupons are electronically coded so they may be used only for buying coupon-eligible converter boxes.

Q. Can I use my coupon to get $40 off a TV converter box I've already purchased?

A. No, coupons must be presented at the point of sale and must be redeemed at the time TV converter boxes are purchased.

Q. What happens to my coupon after I use it?

A. It is instantly deactivated and cannot be used again. Stores may keep them, or you can throw them away. Keep your receipt and a record of your coupon number in case you decide to exchange or return the converter box.

Q. Can I replace a lost or stolen coupon?

A. January 4, 2009, the Coupon Program reached its authorized funding ceiling. However, coupon requests from eligible households are still being accepted. Applications are placed on a waiting list, and will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis as funds become available from expiring coupons. You will not receive coupons until funds become available.

For that reason the Coupon Program cannot accept requests to replace lost, stolen or expired coupons at this time. NTIA will move quickly to change the program if Congress authorizes additional funding. The website will be updated to alert the public if funding becomes available.

If your application is approved, you can use the automatically-generated reference number to return to this website and check the status of your request. At this time, consumers who try to reapply for a coupon which has expired or was lost or stolen will be denied. Consumers should check the website to learn if and when the Coupon Program can accept requests to replace coupons which are lost, stolen or expired.

Consumers who have an analog TV and rely on a rooftop antenna or rabbit ears to receive their programs are encouraged to take action to ensure at least one TV in their home is prepared for the digital television transition. You may:

• Purchase a TV converter box without a coupon;

• Buy a TV with a digital tuner, or;

• Subscribe to cable, satellite or other pay TV service.

Q. Can I use both coupons toward the purchase of one converter box?

A. No, only one coupon can be used per coupon-eligible converter box.

Q. Can coupons be used by other members of a household?

A. Yes. Coupons can be redeemed by anyone in your household. However, only two coupons will be issued per household regardless of the number of occupants or families.

Q. How long are coupons active?

A. Coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed. An expiration date is printed on each coupon.

Q. If I bought a TV converter box with the coupon, but then returned it for credit with the retailer, can I use that credit for any other purchase at the retailer?

A. You will not be able to receive cash or credit for the coupon amount, but you can receive cash or credit for any additional amount you paid out of pocket, if the store policy permits returns or exchanges.

Q. Can I exchange my TV converter box for another one?

A. If the retail store permits exchanges, you can exchange the converter box you purchased for another coupon-eligible one.

Q. If my coupon expires before I use it, can I apply for another one?

A. If you applied for just one coupon and it expires before you use it, then you may apply for a second coupon. However, once two coupons have been issued to your household, you are no longer eligible to request any more coupons. Coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed.

The Coupon Program cannot accept requests to replace lost, stolen or expired coupons at this time. NTIA will move quickly to change the program if Congress authorizes additional funding. The website will be updated to alert the public if funding becomes available.

If your application is approved, you can use the automatically-generated reference number to return to this website and check the status of your request. At this time, consumers who try to reapply for a coupon which has expired or was lost or stolen will be denied. Consumers should check the website to learn if and when the Coupon Program can accept requests to replace coupons which are lost, stolen or expired.

Consumers who have an analog TV and rely on a rooftop antenna or rabbit ears to receive their programs are encouraged to take action to ensure at least one TV in their home is prepared for the digital television transition. You may:

• Purchase a TV converter box without a coupon;

• Buy a TV with a digital tuner, or;

• Subscribe to cable, satellite or other pay TV service

Q. Can a coupon be used to pay for sales tax?

A No, the $40 coupon can only be used towards the price of an eligible TV converter box, excluding any sales tax.

ANTENNAS

Two web sites are recommended to help select an antenna to receive WILX and other DTV stations. www.antennaweb.org and http://tvfool.com .

Q. Will I still need an antenna to receive DTV over-the-air?

A. Yes, you will still need an antenna to continue watching free, over-the-air television after the digital transition. In general, the same type of antenna that gives you good quality analog TV signals now will also provide reliable DTV reception. After June 12, 2009, some television stations will be moving to a different channel in a different frequency band, which may require you to get another type of antenna from the one you are using. To help determine which outdoor antenna is best for you, visit www.antennaweb.org or http://tvfool.com .

Q. I don't have an antenna. Will I still get reception after the transition?

A. Antennas can be either indoor or outdoor. If you live in a home or apartment building, there may be an antenna on the roof or a master antenna distribution system to the building residents. If you subscribe to a cable or satellite service, then nothing will change, and you will continue getting reception as usual. However, if you don't subscribe to a pay TV service, then you are actually using an antenna but may not know it.

Q. Do I need to buy a new antenna?

A. With the DTV transition WILX and other television stations will be moving to a different channel in a different frequency band, which may require you to get a UHF antenna. Many antennas are designed as combo units and will receive both VHF and UHF signals.

Q. What do VHF and UHF stand for?

A. The Very High Frequency (VHF) band is the segment of the television broadcast band covering channels 2 through 13. The Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band is the segment of the television broadcast band covering channels 14 through 69.

Q. If most stations are using UHF channels for their digital programming, do I need a UHF-only antenna?

A. There are antennas that can only receive UHF stations and ones that receive both UHF and VHF signals. To find the right outdoor antenna for you, visit www.antennaweb.org or http://tvfool.com which will also tell you the channels being used in our area.

Q. After plugging in the converter box, I lost my reception. Why did this happen?

A. If you hook up the box and lose signals from full-power stations, the problem is most likely with your antenna. Because some stations broadcast in analog in the VHF band, a simple VHF antenna-like “rabbit ears” can pick up the signals. However, if the stations' digital signals are in the UHF band, then rabbit-ear antennas won't be able to pick them up. You will need a VHF/UHF antenna (rabbit ears plus a loop antenna) to pick up both digital and analog signals. Depending on where you live and where your TV set is in your house, you may need an outdoor antenna. Check www.antennaweb.org or http://tvfool.com to find out how far the local stations are from your house.

Q. What's the difference between indoor and outdoor antennas?

A. There are several types of antennas ranging from the common indoor "rabbit ears" to large outdoor antennas. While the antenna you are using for analog reception may work satisfactorily for DTV, newer designs may work better in some situations. Outdoor antennas, which are usually mounted on a rooftop, are preferable in areas with difficult reception. The best antenna type for you depends on how far you are from the transmitting station, whether you live in a house or an apartment, and whether there are hills, tall buildings or large trees near your home.

Q. How much does an antenna cost?

A. Depending on the selected features, antennas can cost anywhere between $10 and $100 (plus the installation charge for an outdoor antenna) and are sold at electronics retailers nationwide or available online. WILX recommends www.solidsignal.com/antennas .

Q. Where can I get help determining which antenna is right for me?

A. Consumers can find suggestions for appropriate outdoor antennas by entering their street address at www.AntennaWeb.org or http://tvfool.com. Using geographical maps and signal strengths, the site's database predicts which stations are available at a particular location, the type of antenna needed and which direction the antenna needs to be pointed.

Q. After installing my converter box, some stations come in well while others don't. How come?

A. Due to your geographic location or an individual station's signal strength, there may be some stations that are easier to receive in digital than others. Besides choosing the right type of antenna, you also need to adjust its position and the direction it is pointing to get the best reception.

Q. I've correctly installed my converter box, but am still having reception trouble. Is there anything else I should do?

A. If you are having trouble receiving stations after hooking up a converter box with an indoor antenna, try moving the antenna around and changing its angle. If that doesn't work, you may need to get a different indoor antenna design or consider changing to an outdoor antenna. In general, mounting an antenna higher gets better reception and an outdoor antenna needs to be pointed carefully in the right direction. Remember to check whether you have the right UHF or combination UHF/VHF antenna for all of the stations you want to watch.

TELEVISION SET QUESTIONS

Q. I have a handheld or battery-powered TV. Will this work now? Can I connect it to a TV converter box?

A. If your portable analog TV set has an available RF or Line input jack, it can be connected to a DTV converter box to continue receiving television signals after the transition. Currently, there is at least one battery-powered converter box available now. The manufacturer, Winegard offers a battery pack for use with its converter box model.

Q. Will my VCR or DVD player still work after I plug a converter box into my TV?

A. Yes. However, the analog tuner in your VCR will not be able to pick up over-the-air programs for recording. Instead, the input to the VCR must be connected to the output of the DTV converter box. You must set the converter box tuner to the channel you want to record prior to the start of the timed recording programmed in the VCR.

Q. Will I receive high definition TV (HDTV) with a converter box?

A. With a converter box, you will be able to watch HDTV programs, but not with HDTV quality. Although analog TV sets cannot display high definition resolution, your picture will generally improve with a TV converter box. If you want to view true high definition TV, then you will need a newer TV set rated for high definition resolution.

Q. If I want a new TV set, do I have to buy a high definition TV (HDTV) to watch digital broadcast television?

A. No. All new television sets will be able to receive and decode all formats of digital television, although you will need an HDTV set to watch programs that are broadcast in HDTV with full high definition quality. A standard definition digital TV (a TV set with an internal digital tuner), or a digital-to-analog converter box connected to an analog TV set, is all you need to continue watching over-the-air broadcast television programming.

Q. Can I watch TV and record programs on my VCR at the same time?

A. Yes. If you want to watch and record one program simultaneously, you will only need one converter box. However, if you want to watch one program and record a different channel at the same time, you will need two converter boxes.

Each TV set or TV recording device, such as a VCR, that does not have a digital tuner must be connected to a DTV converter box to continue receiving broadcast signals.

Q. I want to get rid of my analog TV set. What are my recycling options?

A. The Environmental Protection Agency has compiled a comprehensive list of programs for donating or recycling electronics products at www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/ecycling/donate.htm. Another great resource is www.mygreenelectronics.org, where you can type in your zip code and find nearby recycling stations.

EMERGENCY QUESTIONS

Q. Because my area is prone to frequent power outages due to severe weather, I have a portable, battery-operated TV set to watch the local news for information about evacuations and shelters. Can I still use my portable set after the transition?

A. If your portable analog TV set has an available RF or Line input jack, it can be connected to a DTV converter box to continue receiving television signals after the transition. Currently, there is at least one battery-powered converter box available now. The manufacturer, Winegard offers battery pack for use with its converter box model.

If your portable, battery-powered TV set is a new model with a built-in digital tuner, it will be able to pick up television signals after the transition without a converter box. There are at least two portable digital TV sets selling in stores now, and more are expected to enter the marketplace in the near future.

Q. I am a cable or satellite subscriber and have been told I don't need to do anything to prepare for the transition. But what should I do if my cable goes out in an emergency, such as severe weather?

A. If your cable or satellite goes out in an emergency situation, but you still have power for your television, it is important to note that you will not be able to receive any television broadcasts. In that case, you may want to consider purchasing a DTV converter box (and a suitable antenna, if you don't already have one), so you can receive free over-the-air television programming until your pay TV service is restored. Another advantage to using a converter box is that you may be able to receive some over-the-air local digital channels not carried on cable or satellite.


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