OTA HDTV Reception Q&A

Updates on the DTV transition and how to receive over-the-air digital television for free.

Location: Richmond, IL, United States

Hello there! I created this blog to share the information about over-the-air HDTV reception you have been wearily searching the Web or calling technical lines for, whether you have decided for less expensive means to get your favorite TV shows, or still adjusting from the over the air broadcast DTV transition that occurred on June 12, 2009. After working for a leading antenna manufacturer for almost 5 years, during which time I've shared my expertise with those who asked on the phone and by email at work, I decided to do the same in the Blogosphere! Confused about getting your local HD channels? Just click through the archives, some of the most useful information is in the early posts from 2005-06. If you want to get in touch with me with antenna related questions, just leave a comment anywhere on this site.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


On February 28, 2007, a number of organizations announced the formation of a DTV Coalition to inform the American public about the termination of over the air analog TV broadcasts on February 17, 2009. The organizations in this coalition are:

  • Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV)
  • Association of Public Television Stations (APTS)
  • Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)
  • Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition (CERC)
  • Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)
  • LG Electronics
  • National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)
  • National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA)


This coalition announced the launch of a brand new educational Web site, www.DTVTransition.org. The Web site is a general source of information about the digital TV transition, and links to other sources for more information. On the home page of the site you can find a countdown timer to the end date for off-air analog broadcasts.

The government, as part of the budgetary plan to complete the DTV transition in the United States, has created a subsidy plan to allow consumers to allow their existing analog sets that receive programming solely with an over the air antenna able to receive the digital TV signals. In 2008, inexpensive set-top boxes, expected to retail between $50 and $70, will be available for purchase. These boxes will have an input for consumers to connect their existing over the air antenna, and outputs to connect to the TV in the same way as a standalone VCR. The subsidy plan will allow US households, beginning on January 1st, 2008, to request up to two coupons at $40 per coupon that can be applied toward the purchase of these digital set-top boxes. Therefore, a household that would like to convert two analog TV sets can do so by requesting two coupons, and will end up paying less than $75 out of pocket total to get their sets ready to continue to receive off-air broadcasts after February 17, 2009. This would be less than having to shell out $300 or more for one completely new DTV set. The consumers will have three months to redeem the coupons that will be sent to them via US Mail. How the consumer will be able to request the coupons remains to be determined; it could be a mail request, a Web site request, or a toll-free phone request.

On paper, this idea would benefit households at or below the poverty line. Realistically, there are a few possible pitfalls with the idea that I hope the coalition will consider. First of all, how will the households that need this information the most get that information? They may not have a computer or a good Internet connection to use, so the best sources would have to be by direct mail marketing by the DTV Coalition as well as PSA spots on television and radio, which as I mentioned in my last entry may be handled by the NAB. Second, will these coupons be redeemed legally for the sole purpose of obtaining these converter boxes, or will some be used fraudulently at the expense of US taxpayers? In addition, will the total cost of subsidizing these households come within the expected budget, or add to the national debt due to an unexpected miscount in the number of existing analog sets affected by the transition? Finally, will there be a solid technical support plan for these boxes if customers need help using them, or if they may need to readjust their antenna? Also, will the consumers be notified that after February 17, 2009, they will need to rescan their tuners as several local broadcasters in their area will be broadcasting solely on their final assigned DTV frequency, which may be different from the one they are using now?

As a public service I, having my own Winegard SS-3000 indoor antenna for local HDTV reception, which should be capable of receiving all local DTV broadcasts from Chicago after the transition (its ability to receive CBS in Chicago, currently using channel 3 for its DTV broadcasts, is questionable, but should fare better receiving CBS Chicago's post-transition DTV channel, 11), may want to take advantage of the subsidy plan and get a set top box of my own in 2008. That way I can write me own review on the box and evaluate how this plan will work out now and after the analog shutoff date. After all, I have one analog set, so I would be entitled to get a coupon and a box for under $30 after rebate. I would expect that when 2008 arrives that we will finally start to see more media coverage of this transition and more public awareness, and this may become a political issue in a Presidential election year. The fact that several organizations are now beginning to come together and send forth a plan to generate public awareness is, at least, an encouraging step in the right direction.