T.V. viewers should go digital now!

Among the misconceptions about digital television is that it begins in February. In fact, digital television is available now on all local full-power stations. Traditional analog broadcasting in place in the nation since 1948 will end Feb. 17, 2009. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) did a nationwide survey in March on awareness of digital television and found that 93 percent of Vermont households knew that television will soon be digital-only. Awareness is great, and were encouraging 100 percent of T.V. viewers in the state to get set up to see digital television soon, said Jim Condon, executive director of the Vermont Association of Broadcasters (VAB). Many people are already enjoying local digital television, whether free with over-the-air broadcasts or from a pay service. Anyone with cable and satellite will continue to receive the local full-power channels seamlessly. Its people with older analog T.V. sets not connected to a pay service were most concerned about people who use rabbit ears or other type of antenna, Condon said. These viewers do not need to buy a new T.V. set, but they will need to buy and connect digital converter boxes, or the older sets wont pick up T.V. signals after February. Digital converter boxes are available in retail stores and online. The government coupon program defrays $40 of the cost of a box. Most viewers who have attached their digital converter boxes are already enjoying clear reception and more channel choices. In a region as mountainous as ours, some viewers find they will need to install better antennas than the ones they have been using, Condon cautioned. Digital technology is not as forgiving as analog, and people who have had poor reception of analog channels may have no reception of digital channels without a suitable antenna. The VAB and local TV stations are urging people to connect their converter boxes now, Condon added. You may have great results right away, but if you need a new antenna, youll have time to get it installed before the snow flies. Digital technology allows Vermonts TV stations to offer multiple program streams at the same time. High definition (H.D.) programming is whats selling viewers on new T.V.s. H.D. sets display the full effect of high definition, but a viewer can still receive H.D. programs on a non-H.D. set. All the Vermont channels offer H.D. programming. Stations WCAX, WPTZ/WNNE and WVNY/WFFF offer H.D .programs in their main schedules. Vermont Public Television runs a separate PBS H.D. channel that will merge later this year with its main schedule. Using digital capacity to expand their offerings, WCAX has WCAXtra, a local news and weather channel; WPTZ offers a second channel called Weather Plus; and WFFF broadcasts CW programs on its second channel, The C.W. Burlington, Vermont Public Televisions third and fourth digital channels are the Create channel of how-to programming and the World channel of news and public affairs.

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