The Analog Shutdown, for Better or for Worse Print
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Article Index
The Analog Shutdown, for Better or for Worse
- - The Way Things Look Today
- - How Things Look Post-Transition
- - Analog Today vs. Post-Transition
- - Conclusions


There is a lot of truth in the circulating rumors that people are seeing fewer digital channels over-the-air than they used to get with analog.  Our analysis does show that the average person switching to a digital-only setup will see fewer channels than they had with analog.  For most of us, this change will be small.  However, in any system-wide change like the one we are witnessing now, there will undoubtedly be statistical outliers where small groups of people will see huge differences in their available channel count (some positive, and some negative).  You'll need to check your specific OTA environment to see what kinds of gains or losses to expect, but statistically speaking, 72% of the population will end up within 3 channels of where they were before.

This first major digital conversion milestone only includes the top 1,811 transmitters, so there will be a fair number of analog transmitters still running after February 17, 2009.  This includes many educational institutions, religious, and other local content providers.  If we count some of these residual analog channels in addition to the available digital channels, then the average user will probably see an overall increase in the total number of OTA choices available to them.  Since it's not known how quickly the remaining analog transmitters will get converted to digital, most of us should plan on operating in a mixed mode for a while even after next year's deadline.  Fortunately, most digital television receivers still include analog reception capabilities, so this shouldn't pose too much of a problem for most people.

It's also worth noting that many digital broadcasts include multiple programming streams on virtual sub-channels.  A lot of these extra "channels" are filled with weather, news, and audio feeds that don't offer a lot of compelling content, but there are some cases where the extra channels carry substantive material that is worth watching.  If someone feels that the digital sub-channels offer additional meaningful viewing options, then they might say that each digital transmitter should be counted as more than just one "channel".  The quality of the sub-channels vary from broadcaster-to-broadcaster, so everyone will need to judge this for themselves, but it's another potential point to consider in favor of digital signals.

The bottom line is that there doesn't appear to be any gaping holes in the DTV transition plans.  It is absolutely true that some people will be severely affected in a negative way because they happen to be one of the few unlucky folks in a statistically bad region.  They have every reason and right to criticize the digital transition.  On the flip side, some people will be dramatically affected in a positive way, but you probably won't hear them complaining about it.  Most people will end up with something very similar to what they have today, which is exactly what the FCC was hoping for.


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