Will my current TV still work after the switch from analog to digital?

This is archived content from Digital TV Facts. For up-to-date information on the digital TV transition, see the federal government’s site, www.DTV2009.gov.

Yes—but some viewers will need additional equipment.

If you get all of your TV programming through a direct-broadcast satellite service (and receive your local channels via satellite), you should still be OK. For more details, see our Facts for satellite subscribers.

For cable customers, the picture remains murky. If you have digital cable, you should be fine. What about standard analog cable subscribers? The answer is not yet clear. Analog cable customers may need additional equipment, which cable companies may elect to provide. Or they may need to upgrade to digital cable. The FCC is examining the issue, and a solution should become clearer as the shutdown of analog TV broadcasts approaches. See our Facts for cable customers.

The rest of this answer applies to viewers who watch over-the-air broadcasts: You will need either a TV with a digital tuner or a set-top converter box that attaches to your analog TV. Without a converter box, analog TVs will no longer receive broadcasts once the switch to digital broadcasting is complete.

Beware of aging stocks of analog televisions still on the shelves, though in diminishing numbers, at some retail stores. The FCC requires retailers to display a label warning that such sets will need converter boxes after February 17, 2009.

If you have a digital TV, you should be OK, as long as it includes a digital tuner. Many digital TVs, including those carrying the “HD-Ready” label, do not include digital tuners—so they, too, will require set-top boxes to receive broadcasts after the conversion. (The HD-Ready designation is sometimes misconstrued, as might be expected. Some stores have been known to misapply the label.)

Again, the key question is: Does your set have a digital tuner? How can you tell? A digital tuner is sometimes called an “ATSC tuner,” after the Advanced Television Systems Committee, which created the U.S. digital TV standard. So look for a label that refers to an ATSC or digital (or “ATSC digital”) tuner. A TV labeled “HD Built-In” or “Integrated HDTV” should include a digital tuner.

Also: Many viewers will need better antennas. A household that gets acceptable or marginal analog TV reception with an indoor antenna may need an outdoor one to get digital broadcasts.

For more details, see our Facts for over-the-air viewers.

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