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Educational Consumer Tips
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Digital Television (DTV)

Author: Better Business Bureau
Category: Service

Congress has mandated that after February 17, 2009, television stations across the country must transmit only in digital signals, and may no longer transmit analog signals. After that date, consumers who rely on antennas (including outside antennas and "rabbit ears") to receive broadcast signals on TV sets having only analog tuners will need to obtain separate digital-to-analog set-top converter boxes to watch over-the-air TV.

The Commission's DTV-related enforcement efforts have focused on protecting consumers by enforcing our rules as this transition takes place. To date, the Commission has taken enforcement action in several areas: (1) the prohibition on the importation and shipment of television receivers without integrated digital tuners; (2) the labeling requirement for television receivers incapable of receiving over-the-air digital signals without a converter box; (3) the requirement that digital television receivers possess full V-Chip functionality, including not only the ability to block offensive programming, but also the ability to adjust to a future rating system; and (4) the DTV consumer education requirements for broadcasters, telecom carriers, cable operators, manufacturers, and others.

The Commission's digital tuner rule specifies that as of March 1, 2007 all new television receivers must include digital tuners. This rule prohibits the manufacture, import, or interstate shipment of any device containing an analog tuner, unless it also contains a digital tuner. The Commission receives complaints and monitors U.S. Customs data to determine if companies are importing or shipping equipment with analog-only tuners in violation of this rule.

On February 19, 2008, the Commission adopted requirements for broadcasters, manufacturers, Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (i.e., cable and satellite television providers), Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs), and others to educate the public about the upcoming digital transition. Specifically, broadcasters must air Public Service Announcements, screen crawls, and other transmissions with information about the digital transition and the NTIA digital-to-analog converter box coupon program. Broadcasters also must report their compliance with these requirements on a quarterly basis. MVPDs must send information about the transition and converter box coupon program to their customers via monthly bill inserts. ETCs must send similar information to customers participating in the Lifeline/Link-Up programs, which provide low-income consumers with assistance in obtaining telephone service. Manufacturers must include notices of the digital transition and the converter box coupon program with certain devices manufactured after May 30, 2008.

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