FCC official says DTV transition will be 'messy'

One of the five members of the Federal Communications Commission, Republican Robert McDowell, said Tuesday that the DTV transition "will be messy...but we'll get through it."

One of the five members of the Federal Communications Commission, Republican Robert McDowell, said Tuesday that the DTV transition "will be messy...but we'll get through it."

The switch-off of analog TV broadcast signals this February may cause even those who make the switch to lose some channels. CNET

The statement comes three weeks after Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, a Democrat, warned that the next presidential administration may inherit a "communications crisis."

McDowell urged broadcasters, the party he identified as having the most to lose in the transition, to step up their informational campaigns and to tailor the information to local markets in the months leading up to the transition. As an example, he said that technical differences between local markets may require campaigns that urge consumers to also purchase a new antenna to get their DTV converter boxes to work.

To parse McDowell's statement, he's probably referring to the fact that, even if consumers buy a converter box and hook it up to their current antenna, they may not receive as many channels as they did before the transition. Digital TV signals use a completely different transmission method from analog, and in many cases we've heard reported, people often can't get the same number of digital channels as analog ones.

As reported in Broadcasting & Cable, FCC chairman Kevin Martin told Congress last month that, after the switch, approximately 15 percent of digital TV stations will not reach as many viewers as their analog signals did. Many viewers during the test of the DTV switchover in Wilmington, N.C., lost access to NBC, for example. Martin said the FCC's "highest priority" is to address the loss of coverage after the switch, and that FCC engineers are working now to identify the problem areas. How much can be done at this late stage is an open question, however.

What's your experience? Have you or someone you know made the switch from analog to digital broadcast TV? If so, did you stop receiving certain channels, or even received more? Let us know in comments.

 

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