Digital tuners mandatory as of March 1

Beginning Thursday, March 1, any electronic device that contains an analog tuner will be required to also carry a complementary digital tuner.

The deadline is part of the yearslong transition toward digital television, as dictated by the FCC. This deadline doesn't have any particular significance for consumers, but it does for manufacturers of televisions, VCRs, DVD players and recorders, DVRs and others, who have until February 28 to ship their last remaining inventory of devices that contain only an analog, or NTSC, tuner to U.S. stores.

After that, all shipments from manufacturers have to be capable of either receiving both an analog and digital signal over the air, or neither. Retailers can continue to sell analog-only devices until their stock runs out, but then it's all digital all the time.

There is, of course, a loophole . Manufacturers can get around the expense of adding a digital tuner by simply removing the analog version. This could result in DVD players or DVRs equipped with tuners that decode only analog cable, since the FCC dictate doesn't apply to cable.

The next major deadline is February 17, 2009, when the FCC has mandated that analog television will cease over-the-air broadcasts.

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