How would you like it if the TV you're watching right now went black...and never came on again?
Well, for thousands of people in the Mid-Ohio Valley, that's exactly what is due to happen come February 19, 2009.
On that date, the FCC is requiring all television stations to permanently turn off the analog UHF and VHF transmitters they have been using for the past 50 years.
Those stations will forever more only be allowed to transmit digital signals.
WTAP and virtually every other broadcaster is already sending out those new digital signals and have been for several years, in preparation for the end of the analog era.
Our NBC affiliate, which has been UHF channel 15 since 1953, is also available on digital channel 15.1. Our new FOX affiliate is on digital channel 15.2 and our MyNetwork station is on digital channel 15.3.
If you're a cable TV customer, this may not be a big deal for you, since your cable company may be able to take those digital signals and convert them into something your current TV can see. But if you rely on over-the-air signals with an antenna, you currently only have three choices if you want to pick up your local TV stations when the analog signals go away.
One is to get cable if that's available where you live.
Another choice is to get what is called a "digital-to-analog set-top box." It's pretty much what it says. It's a little box that you can connect to your TV set and your outdoor antenna, and turn those over-the-air digital signals into good old analog signals that your TV can see.
The last option is to go out and buy a digital TV set with a tuner that will allow you to select those digital signals over-the-air much as you're doing now. This is currently the most expensive option, but the prices on digital TV sets are falling fast.
And if you get a digital TV that's capable of showing high-definition pictures, you can see great HDTV free over-the-air or on cable from WTAP. Lots of people are already doing that here in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
February 2009 may seem like a long ways off. But it isn't. If you need these details when you go shopping for a new TV, print this out and take it with you.