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Digital TV Conversion and what you can do to help

I just received this today in the ARRL weekly e-mail newsletter.  While it is targeted at Amateur Radio operators (Hams), it has a lot of great debugging tips for technical types wanting to get their friends and family back watching over the air television.



Even though the mandatory conversion date for television stations to
switch from analog signals to digital has been delayed by four months
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-09-9A1.pdf>, hams
are still assisting the FCC and their communities by providing technical
support to those who need assistance
<http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2008/12/10/10499/>. Although many TV
stations won't turn off their analog signals until the new deadline, the
law allows stations to apply to switch on the original date -- February
17 -- or any time before June 12.

According to the FCC, there are nearly 1800 full-power televisions
stations in the US. Of these, the FCC said that "220 will have
terminated their analog signals before Tuesday [February 17] and another
421 will terminate their analog signals on Tuesday [February 17] before
11:59 PM, for a total of 641 stations, or about 36 percent of all
full-power stations nationwide." The FCC has posted a list of stations
making the conversion on or before February 17 on their Web site

ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, said he has
been getting e-mails and phone calls from Amateur Radio operators
concerning the digital TV conversion, now set to take place on Friday,
June 12. "People are asking what's happening with the DTV conversion --
especially now that it's been delayed -- and wondering what we as hams
can do to help," he said. "There has been considerable confusion
concerning the extension of the date, but the role of Amateur Radio is
simply to be helpful to the people in our communities."

Pitts advises those hams that are helping to provide technical
educational assistance keep in mind the following troubleshooting
pointers, provided by the FCC:

* Check Your Connections
Check that your digital-to-analog converter box (or digital television)
is connected properly. Make sure that your antenna is connected to the
antenna input of your digital-to-analog converter box (or digital
television). If you are using a digital-to-analog converter box, ensure
that the antenna output of the converter box is connected to the antenna
input of your analog TV. If you are unsure of the proper connections,
refer to your owners manual.

Make sure that your components are plugged in and turned on.
If using a digital-to-analog converter box, tune your analog TV to
channel 3. You should see a set-up menu or picture on your screen. If
you do not see this, re-check your connections.

* Perform a Channel Scan
Digital-to-analog converter boxes (and digital televisions) have a
button -- usually on the remote control -- that is labeled "Set-up" or
"Menu" or some similar term. Press that button to access the set-up
menu. Using the directional arrow buttons on your remote, scroll to the
option that allows you to perform a "channel scan." The channel scan
will search for digital broadcast channels that are available in your
area. If you are unsure how to do a channel scan, please refer to the
owners manual for your converter box or digital television (whichever

Once the channel scan is complete, you will be able to tune to the
digital channels received by your antenna.

* Adjust Your Antenna
As many hams know, small adjustments to an antenna can make a big
difference; digital TV is no exception. If you have an indoor antenna,
try elevating it and moving it closer to an exterior wall of your home.
After adjusting your antenna, perform another channel scan to see if
your reception has improved.

While adjusting your antenna, it may be helpful to access the "Signal
strength meter" on your converter box or digital television set to
determine whether your adjustments are improving the signals' strength.
You can probably find your signal strength meter via the "Menu" function
on your remote control, and your owners manual will provide detailed
information on how to perform this function. Remember to do another
channel scan after you have adjusted your antenna.

Make sure that you are using an antenna that covers both the UHF and VHF
bands and that is connected properly (depending on what channels are in
use in your area).

Late last year, the FCC requested assistance from the ARRL in providing
educational support to local communities regarding the digital TV

"I really appreciate the willingness of the ARRL to actively participate
in helping Americans with the transition to DTV and your helpful
suggestions," said George Dillon, FCC Deputy Bureau Chief for Field
Operations (now retired). "The DTV transition will be an historic moment
in the evolution of TV. Broadcast television stations can offer viewers
improved picture and sound quality and new programming choices.
All-digital broadcasting also will allow [the FCC] to significantly
improve public safety communications and will usher in a new era of
advanced wireless services such as the widespread deployment of wireless
broadband. Our goal is to engage the amateur community on a cooperative
basis to help with the DTV outreach and to educate consumers."

The FCC said that it is seeking to ensure that even where all or most
stations in a market are terminating analog service, consumers who are
unprepared for the switch will continue to have access to critical local
news and emergency information. In a statement released by the FCC, the
Commission "examined each market in which stations planned to end analog
service to try to ensure that at least one affiliate of the four major
networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- would continue broadcasting in
analog after February 17. Many had such a station, but in those
instances in which there would be no top-four affiliate remaining in a
market, the FCC attempted to ensure that analog local news and emergency
information would remain available -- generally through what is being
called 'enhanced analog nightlight' service. Under 'enhanced analog
nightlight,' the top-four affiliates must keep at least one analog
signal on the air to provide programming that includes, at a minimum,
local news and emergency information"

FCC Acting Chairman Michael Copps said that the Commission is "trying to
make the best of a difficult situation. While this staggered transition
is confusing and disruptive for some consumers, the confusion and
disruption would have been far worse had we gone ahead with a nationwide
transition on [February 17]."

For more information on the conversion to digital television, please see
the DTV Conversion Web site <http://www.dtv.gov/>.

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