Tips to making switch to digital TV

The nationwide transition from analog to digital TV is set for Friday. Most people – including those with cable or satellite service, a digital receiver or an analog-to-digital converter box – are ready. But some are not, and others will have either poor or no reception after the switch.

Here’s a DTV survival kit:

COUPONS STILL AVAILABLE Households may still apply for federal coupons – good for $40 off the cost of a converter box necessary to convert an analog signal to digital – at or by calling (888) 388-2009. Coupons are available through July 31 and expire within 90 days of mailing.

A QUICK CHECK To find out if your TV is equipped to receive a digital signal – most built since 2004 are – go to Have the manufacturer and model number of your TV ready to plug into the “Is Your TV a DTV” link.

SHOPPING HELP Consumers Union has tested many of the converter boxes being sold nationwide, listing and evaluating them at

PLAN TO SCAN Converter boxes come with fairly simple directions for hookup, and they are relatively easy to use once connected. However, converter box users will need to scan for channels to make sure they’re pulling in all the available stations. Some converter boxes scan automatically, but you can do it by using the scan feature on the converter box menu or with a remote.

CONVERTER BOX WOES Through July 15, AmeriCorps will assist people with the converter box hookup. Call (888) 225-5322.

ARE YOU A GHOST? Man-made and naturally occurring objects can reflect TV signals. This so-called “ghosting” occurs when a TV signal arrives at the receiver via more than one path. Low-lying areas are susceptible, as are households in hilly areas. Ghosting can be countered by antenna positioning. Technology that supersedes traditional line-of-sight signaling also is being further developed, according to the federal government.

OTHER POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS Some households with converter boxes will still struggle to receive a signal, and some may not receive a signal at all. A recommended antenna type does not always provide a good picture, perhaps due to topography or obstacles surrounding a household. Distant, outlying areas may not receive a strong enough signal to provide an adequate picture, because they are many miles from the signal source. Some may have to experiment with directional antennas to hit upon good reception.

HDTV NOT PART OF THE DEAL Your TV’s ability to receive a digital signal does not automatically make it a high-definition TV.

IF ALL ELSE FAILS Call the Federal Communications Commission’s DTV hotline at (888) 225-5322. Local TV stations say they’ll have engineers and other personnel available to help and answer questions when the Friday switch occurs. Here is a link to phone numbers of TV stations throughout Northern California: htm?l=EN&zipCode=95816. – Mark Glover