Bye bye, bunny ears

If your television signal transmitted through V-shaped “rabbit-ears” on top of your television set or through an antenna on your roof, you live in one of every five homes in the United States that will soon need to invest in a converter box or switch to a digital cable company so your television doesn’t go dark in early 2009.
“I don’t find that this is a very good idea, considering people will have to spend money on a converter just to see things such as news and their favorite programs,” said Sean O’Toole, an education major at St. John’s University. “It’s unnecessary money just to make the picture of the TV better.”

As set in by The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005, all television stations will stop analog broadcasting, and turn to the modern digital transmission as of midnight of February 17, 2009. Digital Television will offer more local news, sports, public affairs, multilingual programming, weather religious programming and better public service announcement opportunities during times when they are needed, as well as a better picture.

The change was brought up in Congress and the ederal Communications Commission in the mid 1990s to better the quality of the picture and make it easier for stations to display programming in high definition.
Soon, to view your favorite television programs, you will have to purchase a converter box. The converter box is a small device, about the size of a normal cable box, which connects to an analog television so that it can receive digital programming signal. Some prototypes have been released by companies like RCA and LG Electronics.
“As far as progress and technology it’s a large move forward, but it’s an inconvenience. I don’t think people should have to go through all of this stress just for television,” said Kudakwashe Chipanda, a junior actuarial science major at St. John’s University.

According to the Director of Operations at WNBC Channel 4 Kathy Mosolino, the change will occur for people who use “rabbit-ear” antennas for television signal, or people without some form of digital television or cable. WNBC has a television in the studio that is broadcasting digital signal, and Mo was very clear.

“People are going to watch television. The New York Area has a very small percentage of people who don’t use a digital cable already,” said Mosolino. “Most of them are cable or Direct TV users.”

The FCC’s Web site states that between January 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, all U.S. households will be able to request up to two coupons, worth $40 each, for the purchase of up to two boxes, which cuts the cost down from $60 to around $20 a piece. Requests can be sent to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Web site or by calling the phone number listed on the site. The boxes can be purchased at electronic stores and by some online retailers.

There seem to be some additional perks added to the converter boxes, as a standard model comes with audio and video outputs, a digital tuner, a remote, and an onscreen program guide. The deluxe model includes the aforementioned and a video recording and playback ability (much like DVR).

The National Association of Broadcasters have found that some people may not have the means to obtain information about the switch, so they have embarked on a campaign to alert people of the needed box, where to find it, and how to obtain coupons toward the purchase of a converter. More information can be found on their Web site at