What is analog television?

Analog television service is the traditional method of transmitting television signals. Analog is not as efficient as digital television: it uses up much more of the valuable spectrum than digital, and TV stations can only transmit one channel of programming with an analog signal versus up to four or more programs with a digital signal in the same amount of spectrum. Analog is also susceptible to interference and “snow” that make a picture less clear.

Do I have an analog or digital TV set?

To check whether your TV set can receive over-the-air digital broadcast signals, take a look at your owner’s manual or look on the set for an indication that it has a built-in Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) tuner. If your television set is labeled as a “Digital Monitor” or “HDTV Monitor,” or as “Digital Ready” or “HDTV Ready,” this does not mean it actually contains a digital tuner. Thus, you still will likely need a converter box in order to view over-the-air digital programming. You can also call the manufacturer or visit their Web site and check the capabilities of the set by manufacturer model number. Still unsure? Call OETA’s Deputy Director of Technology, Mark Norman at 1-800-879-6382.

What if I don’t have an antenna?

You will need an antenna for your analog television to receive DTV. Visit to find out what type of antenna you’ll need to receive digital television. If you do not have internet access, call OETA’s Deputy Director of Technology, Mark Norman at 1-800-879-6382.

Will I be able to use my VCR, DVD player or camcorder with a DTV set?

Yes, your existing VCR, DVD player and camcorder will still work with a digital television set.

Why is America switching to DTV?

DTV is a more efficient way to broadcast, and it will free up the airwaves for a variety of new services. DTV also provides crystal clear pictures and sound, with more channels over-the-air for free. DTV will also allow more services than ever before with free, broadcast television.

Are DTV and HDTV the same thing?

No. HDTV, or high-definition television, is the highest quality digital television (DTV) available, offering more than five times the sharpness of today’s analog television, along with digital surround sound capability. DTV is also available as EDTV (enhanced definition TV) or SDTV (standard definition TV), each with improved pictures and sound over today’s analog televisions.

Should I purchase a digital TV set?

It’s up to you. Although a DTV set is not required to view digital programming, the digital sets monumentally enhance the viewing experience, providing crystal clear sound and picture. If you decide to purchase new digital television set or high definition (HD) TV set (these sets do not require a converter box) and enjoy the full glory of DTV programming, be sure to keep the following in mind:

  • Before deciding to purchase a new digital TV, you should make sure your current TV doesn’t already have a built-in digital tuner. Most sets sold in the last few years that are larger than 27 inches will likely have a digital tuner.
  • An Integrated DTV set is a television with a built-in digital tuner (also referred to as “a DTV”). A digital tuner is also sometimes called a DTV decoder or DTV receiver. If you have an Integrated DTV, you will not need any additional equipment, with the exception of a broadcast antenna (either a rooftop antenna or “rabbit ears” connected to the set), to receive over-the-air digital broadcast programming. Integrated DTVs can also receive and display analog broadcast programming, so you can continue watching analog broadcasts.
  • As with older sets, if your DTV set does not have a built-in digital tuner, you will need an over-the-air antenna that provides quality reception of over-the-air analog television signals to pick up free digital broadcast programming from local stations.
  • In a recent survey of local retail and wholesale stores, OETA found HDTVs selling for as little as $100. Although the larger LCD (liquid crystal display) sets sell from $3,000 to $5,000, you can buy a 32-46 inch LCD set for less than $1,000.
  • There are several varieties of HDTVs — LCD, plasma and rear-projection. Each type has its pros and cons.
  • All new TVs sold in the U.S. must include digital tuners. However, retailers may continue to sell analog-only devices from existing inventory. The FCC requires them to display a consumer alert that TVs with analog-only tuners will require a converter box to receive over-the-air digital broadcasts.

*Remember: If you watch TV over-the-air on an analog set, you do not need to buy a new TV to enjoy digital television, but you will need a converter box.