(Taken from a Recent Speech by KTEN General Manager, Asa Jessee)
The Transition to Digital Television
We are embarking on an unprecedented revolution in the way we view television.
What we are about to experience is a milestone change. It will impact an entire industry in the way that the assembly line forever changed the way we manufacture.
The way that forsaking trains for airplanes changed the way we get from point A to B.
The way that switching to color television and color movies changed the way we are entertained.
I am talking about the switch to digital television, and it is going to happen on February 17, 2009.
I want to thank you very much for inviting me to speak to you today.
I've been in the broadcast business for just over twenty two (22) years. Of this career, I'm proud to say I've spent the last eight (8) here in this area at KTEN Television.
I've served the last three (3) years as KTEN's General Manager and before that as Station Manager.
KTEN has a proud past in this market spanning over 50 years and in that time KTEN has played a major role in the lives and prosperity of this community.
KTEN has witnessed many historical events and seen so many life changing advancements in the past 50 years.
Nothing could be more exciting for KTEN and our industry than the paradigm shifting advent of digital television!
Think about how many times you watched TV today. Or even caught a glimpse of what was on the tube.
What if I told you that this broadcast will be obsolete in 2009?
What if I were to tell you that you are about to get dramatically clearer pictures, better sound quality, and more channels on your TV...all for free?
I'm guessing you'd like that.
On February 17, 2009, that's exactly what's going to happen.
Television will no longer be broadcast the way it was when you and I, our parents, and even our grandparents grew up.
On this date, we-as a nation-will make the switch to Digital TV, or DTV.
The transition to DTV will be the single most significant advancement in television since the color TV was invented in the 1950's.
We will experience a dramatic change in the way our favorite television shows are broadcast.
But before I tell you why, let's take a look back at some of the major milestones in television history.
Then I'll take you to the future of television, and show you how the DTV transition will affect you.
In 1927, Bell Telephone and the U.S. Department of Commerce conducted the first long distance use of television.
It took place between Washington D.C. and New York City, and Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover said, "Today we have, in a sense, the transmission of sight for the first time in the world's history. Human genius has now destroyed the impediment of distance in a new respect, and in a manner hitherto unknown."
In 1948, Cable television was born in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
In 1953, the first successful color television began commercial broadcasts.
1960 marked the first televised presidential debates, between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.
In 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong took the first lunar stroll. About 720 million people around the world tuned in to view it live.
In 1989, Pay-per-view became a familiar part of cable TV service, reaching about one-fifth of all wired households.
In 1993, Closed Captioning became a requirement on all TV sets. Congress passed a law in 1990 mandating that as of July 1993, all televisions manufactured for sale in the U.S. must contain a built-in caption decoder if the picture tube is 13" or larger.
2005 saw flat screen TVs & HDTV become the "in" thing of the year. Almost all televisions sold are now flat LCD and Plasma screens.
And that brings us to our latest milestone in television history: February 17, 2009, when we as a nation will be making the transition to Digital Television, or DTV, which will be the single most significant advancement in the way we view television since the advent of color TV in the 1950's.
You might be surprised to learn that for the past 80 years we've been getting our broadcasts through technology that dates back to well before the invention of the color television.
Since the late 1930's, when the television first entered the American mainstream, stations have been broadcasting through analog signals.
Analog signals are now an inefficient and antiquated type of broadcasting, but historically TVs have received broadcasts through analog tuners-the antennas bearing a strong resemblance to rabbit ears-that pick up analog signals.
On February 17, 2009, all of these analog signals will be upgraded to digital signals, and television will be broadcast exclusively in digital format.
The digital format was first introduced in the 1990's as a dramatically more efficient way of transmitting broadcasts, and soon after TV stations began airing their broadcasts in both digital and analog formats.
Digital television is a vastly superior type of broadcasting technology because it allows TV stations more efficiency, more flexibility, the ability to provide crystal-clear pictures, better sound quality, and it has the potential to provide many more TV viewing options.
DTV will allow for programs to be broadcast in high definition, or HD, while also providing multiple channels of programming simultaneously, which is called multicasting. Traditionally, only one channel has been broadcast at a time.
DTV can also be used to provide future interactive video and data services that are not possible with analog technology.
You may still be wondering, why can't we leave things the way they are? Why is television going exclusively digital?
Because Congress recognizes the myriad benefits of making the switch to Digital TV, so they passed a law in 2005 requiring stations to switch to digital format by February 17, 2009.
They felt that this is a fair date, and would allow TV viewers plenty of time to get prepared for the switch.
And not the least of the benefits of eliminating analog signals is that it frees up tons of bandwidth, which means we can use that bandwidth, or air space, for other purposes. This air space can be used by phone companies and by local police and fire departments to enhance their emergency communications capabilities. I think most of us would agree this is a much more productive use of our airspace than analog TV broadcast signals.
Considering how far technology has come in recent years, it's rather surprising that we're using the same broadcast technology we've been using for 80 years to watch television.
Yet millions of households across the country are still receiving analog signals through the antennas or "rabbit ears" on their analog television sets.
In fact, it's estimated that about 19.6 million households are receiving only analog broadcasts, and an additional 15 million more households have at least one analog set.
Approximately 64 million analog televisions are still being used in America.
Here in Texas and Oklahoma, there are approximately 1,715,980 (1.7) and 1,xxx,xxx (x.x) (respectively) analog televisions still in use.
I want to make sure that no viewer or no television set is left behind in the transition to DTV.
While digital television is still relatively new, many of you are probably already familiar with the benefits of digital TV. So how do you know if you've already gone digital? And how can you be 100% prepared for the transition?
If you've recently purchased a new television set, it very well may have a built-in digital tuner which is capable of carrying digital broadcasts. In fact, television manufacturers are required to exclusively produce and ship digital TV sets with digital tuners to retailers as of March 1, 2007. Analog TVs are still on the shelves in stores, so it's important to ask your retailer if your new television is in fact equipped with a digital tuner. You can check your user's manual, or visit the manufacturer's website.
Many of you may have purchased or watched TV on flat screens or LCD screens, which are exclusively digital. If you've ever watched your favorite sporting event in High Definition, also known as HD TV, at home or at your favorite restaurant or bar, then you've enjoyed digital TV.
If you subscribe to a paid cable, satellite, or telephone company television service such as FIOS, you are already receiving digital broadcasts and you will not be affected by the analog-to-digital transition. If you need more information about these services, you should contact your service provider for more details.
If you don't meet any of the above criteria, then there are three simple options available to you to ensure you are prepared for the switch.
One of these options is to purchase a converter box from your local electronic retailer similar to the one I have here on display. The converter box is used to convert the new digital format back into the analog format so that you can view broadcasts on your analog TV set.
Converter boxes are extremely user-friendly, as you witnessed just recently in the video. They are manufactured by a handful of vendors and will be available beginning in January of 2008.
You may be wondering whether or not you need a converter box, so, it's important to keep in mind that you may have some televisions sets in your homes that are DTV already and some that are not, such as TVs in your basements, bedrooms, or kitchen. Or you may have a second home in which you use an older TV.
I urge you to make a mental note of where your televisions are and think about whether or not they are DTV ready. Do they use an antenna? Is it an older model TV? If so, chances are you will need a converter box.
If the TV is a newer model, manufactured after March 1, 2007 and equipped with a digital tuner, or it carries paid cable, satellite, or phone service broadcasts, then you may not need the converter box.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has created a voucher program for consumers who need to purchase converter boxes. Every household will be able to apply for up to two coupons, valued at $40 a piece, and they must be redeemed within three months. They will be available in early 2008, and you must register with the NTIA to receive the coupons.
Each coupon can be used towards one converter box. For example, if you are married, you and your spouse cannot combine your respective $40 dollar vouchers, which would total $80, and put them towards a $60 converter box and receive $20 cash back. Only one coupon per box will be permitted.
The second option is to simply subscribe to a paid cable, satellite, or telephone company television service such as FIOS. As I said before, if you already subscribe to one of these services, you will continue to receive programming after February 17, 2009 as you do today.
Your third option is to go out and purchase a new television with a digital tuner. Remember, it's important to specify to your electronics retailer that you want a TV that has a digital tuner capable of receiving digital broadcasts.
By law, digital tuners have been required in sets 35 inches or larger since July of 2005, and since March of 2006, digital tuners have been required on sets 25 inches in larger.
And as of March 1, 2007, all television sets must be manufactured with a digital tuner.
If you purchase an HD TV, you will automatically receive digital broadcasts. Many of you may be unsure of what High definition television is, and whether or not it constitutes Digital TV. In fact, it is one of several formats of DTV, and it is the highest quality format available.
If you already own an HD TV set, then you currently are receiving free high definition television programming over the air.
Other equipment such as VCRs, DVD players, camcorders, and video games, which are analog format, will continue to work after the transition. However, they may not provide digital quality picture and sound. Manufacturers are producing a number of different connectors to hook equipment together and improve picture and sound quality.
While the transition may seem overwhelming, the switch to digital that the U.S. is making in 2009 is by no means unique; in fact we are hardly the first nation to undertake this transition.
This is part of a global movement towards digital cable, and many other nations have already completed their own switchover.
Several European nations have set a date that is earlier than ours, and some countries, including the Netherlands, have already successfully completed the transition.
The need to switch to digital is a universally accepted necessity, and you have the ability to be completely prepared for it.
Remember, in order for you to continue viewing broadcasts on analog TV sets on February 17, 2009 and beyond, you need to either subscribe to a cable, satellite, or telephone company television service, purchase a new television set with a built-in digital tuner, or purchase a converter box. Purchasing a converter box is simple and there are government funds available to help you buy one.
If you have any questions about the DTV transition, please visit http://www.DTVanswers.com. You will find all the information you need on how you can be prepared for the switch.
Television stations have already been doing their part in the transition. Over 92% of television stations now provide digital programming in addition to their analog service.
And now you have 403 days to make sure you and your family are ready.
Thanks again for inviting me to speak to you today.
I have a few minutes to answers some questions you may have about the transition.
Brief Q&A with audience.
If there are any questions I have not answered I will be leaving some reading materials in the back of the room for you to take home, and I encourage you to visit http://www.dtvanswers.com for more information.