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Frequently Asked Questions


What is the switch to digital television (DTV)?


The television broadcast system we've all grown up with uses "analog" technology to reach the TV sets in your home. A new technology called "digital" is replacing it. Most stations, including OPB, already broadcast a digital signal along with the traditional analog signal.


OPB's main transmitters have switched to digital-only broadcasting. Many countries around the world, from Britain to Nigeria to China, are engaged in similar transitions.


Do you live in a rural area? Your digital conversion date will likely be later than that of OPB's full-power stations. Find out more.



Why is the switch to digital television happening?


Digital TV provides a more efficient use of our public airwaves. More than one digital channel can be broadcast using the same space needed for just one analog channel. This allows stations like OPB to provide more programs for the benefit of the community. It also frees up extra bandwidth for public agencies, emergency first responders and new data and communication services. 
Digital TV offers improved pictures, sound and reception. Digital signals are less prone to interference, and pictures are free of snow and "ghost" images. Once you switch to DTV, you can start watching all OPB digital channels right away. And they're all free when you watch over the air with an antenna or rabbit ears.


I watch TV for free with no cable or satellite service. Do I need to take action to switch to DTV?


Do you watch OPB over the air on channel 10 from Portland, 7 from Corvallis, 29 from Eugene, 11 from Bend, 13 from La Grande, or from the OPB translator in Baker City? Do you use a traditional analog TV set, an indoor or outdoor antenna and no cable or satellite service? If so, then you need to act to continue watching free, over-the-air TV after the switch to all-digital broadcasting. Find out how to switch to digital
.

Do you live in a rural area and watch OPB over the air on any channel other than 10 from Portland, 7 from Corvallis, 29 from Eugene, 11 from Bend, 13 from La Grande, or from the OPB translator in Baker City? Your digital conversion date will likely be later than that of OPB's full-power stations. Find out more.


Make sure every TV in your home is digital ready. Use the TV Planner Checklist on page 4 of OPB's DTV Fact Sheet.


I have a new digital TV. Do I need to take action to switch to DTV?


If you have a new digital TV with an ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) tuner, you are already prepared.


Make sure every TV in your home is digital ready. Use the TV Planner Checklist on page 4 of OPB's DTV Fact Sheet.

How do I tell if my TV set is analog or digital?


If your TV is more than a couple of years old, it's probably not digital. Even a TV marked "digital ready" or "HD ready" is ready only if it contains an ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) digital tuner. Check your owner's manual to see if it mentions a digital tuner, or look on the set for an indication of an ATSC tuner. If your TV has one, your TV set is digital and you've already made the switch. Find out how to watch OPB's digital channels. 


You can also check the manufacturer's Web site for further details about your model. If there's no mention of digital ("digital-ready" does not mean your set is digital) or ATSC, then you have an analog set and you'll need to make the switch. Find out how to switch. 


Make sure every TV in your home is digital ready. Use the TV Planner Checklist on page 4 of OPB's DTV Fact Sheet.

Do I need to buy a new TV to watch digital television?


No. If you are watching analog TV over the air using an indoor or outdoor antenna, all you need to buy is a converter box. The converter box will convert the digital TV signals into a picture that can be displayed on your analog television. When you hook up your converter box, your viewing will continue as before, except you'll have more OPB channels and programs to choose from. Not only will it all still be free, you'll probably experience improved reception, picture and sound.



Do you live in a rural area? You'll need a converter box with an analog pass-through feature. Find out more.


How do I choose the right converter box for my TV?


Every converter box will switch your TV from analog to digital. Coupon-eligible boxes all contain the same basic features: display options, on-screen program guides, parental controls, closed captioning and a remote control, among others. 



The most important feature to look for is analog pass-through, which allows reception of both analog and digital channels now and after the digital switch.

If you live in a rural area and watch OPB over the air on any channel other than 10 from Portland, 7 from Corvallis, 29 from Eugene, 11 from Bend, 13 from La Grande, or from the OPB translator in Baker City, your digital conversion date will likely be later than that of OPB's full-power stations.

If you watch TV over the air using an indoor or outdoor antenna, you must purchase a converter box with analog pass-through to ensure you can receive both analog and digital signals. That way you'll have access to all your local stations until everyone switches over to digital. Find out more.



If you watch OPB TV over the air with an indoor or outdoor antenna on channel 10 from Portland, 7 from Corvallis, 29 from Eugene, 11 from Bend or 13 from La Grande, it would be a good idea to purchase a converter box with the analog pass-through feature. That way you'll have access to all your local stations until everyone switches over to digital.


Has anyone tested the quality of different converter boxes?


Consumer Reports has reviewed some converter boxes. You can find information at consumerreports.org and hearusnow.org or check their magazines at your local library. 



OPB engineers and staff are also testing boxes. Contact the OPB Member Center for current recommendations.


Do I need to buy a new antenna to watch digital TV?


Probably not. If the antenna you are currently using to watch TV — whether set-top/rabbit ears, roof-top or in the attic — provides good reception for all of your local stations, it should continue to do so when your TV is hooked up to a converter box or with your TV with built-in digital tuner. However, you will want to make sure you have a UHF/VHF antenna. Some digital channels appear in the UHF band and others on the VHF band. An antenna that receives both UHF and VHF signals will allow you to access a full range of digital channels.

Since analog and digital reception are not always identical, some households may need to upgrade to better antennas. Homes that are in areas of fringe reception — because of surrounding terrain, distance from transmitters or interference from buildings, trees or other objects — may have problems receiving a sufficiently strong digital signal. Since digital reception is "all or nothing," a weak signal may translate to nothing on the screen.

If you need to upgrade your antenna, consider the following tips:

  • Be certain to get a combination antenna, which is designed for reception of both VHF (2-13) and UHF (14-51) channels. Digital broadcasts in most areas use both ranges.
  • If your home receives TV signals from different directions, you may need a multi-directional antenna.
  • An antenna with a built-in amplifier and gain control may help boost a weak signal. Since too much amplifier can also negatively impact your reception, first try an antenna without an amplifier.
  • While a good indoor antenna should be better than older rabbit ears, a decent outdoor antenna is likely to be better than an indoor one.
  • Talk to your neighbors. A neighbor's antenna solution may work for you.
  • Buy from a store with a good return policy in case your first choice of antenna doesn't produce a strong enough signal. You can then upgrade in stages.

        For information on which antenna is most likely to work best for you, plus customized advice about the best placement and orientation for your antenna, visit antennaweb.org.



For more information about antenna installation and placement, download this article: "Choosing and Installing an Antenna for Digital TV or HDTV"



I subscribe to cable or satellite. Do I need to take action to switch to DTV?


If you subscribe to a cable or satellite service, you are already prepared. Any necessary changes will be made by your service provider. Depending on your cable or satellite package, delivery of all OPB's digital channels may not be available or may involve additional fees. Over-the-air antenna reception will always remain free.



Make sure every TV in your home is digital ready. Use the TV Planner Checklist on page 4 of OPB's DTV Fact Sheet.


Do I need to subscribe to a cable or satellite service to get digital TV?


No. Digital TV broadcasts are available for free over the air using an antenna, as long as you live within range of the signal. In fact, because some cable and satellite services compress TV signals during transmission, the highest quality digital picture is often received via antenna.



Satellite services do not offer all OPB digital channels and currently do not plan to do so in the future. If you subscribe to a cable service, you may need to pay higher fees to receive all OPB digital channels. It's also possible to add antenna reception to supplement your paid service.



I have a portable, battery-powered analog TV. Will I be able to use it to watch broadcast TV after the switch to digital?


If your portable, battery-powered analog TV has the necessary plugs to allow it to be connected to a DTV converter box, you will be able to use it to watch broadcast TV after the switch to digital. Since battery-powered DTV converter boxes most likely will NOT be produced, you will also need an external power source.



Will my VCR or DVD player/recorder work with a digital converter box?


It depends on how you use your VCR or DVD device. It will continue to work if you use it only to:

  • play tapes or DVDs
  • record the same channel you are currently watching
  • record a single channel in your absence

Unless you have a new DVD recorder with its own ATSC digital tuner, you will need a separate converter box for your VCR or DVD device if you record one channel while watching another.



Will I be able to use my camcorder and/or gaming console with a digital television set?


Yes. Digital television sets are "backward compatible," meaning your current analog equipment will work on digital TV sets. However, their video will only be displayed in the maximum resolution that is available with each analog product. Manufacturers are producing a number of different connectors to hook equipment together and improve picture and sound quality when DTV sets are used with analog equipment. Check with your retailer to determine which types of connectors will work with your equipment.


Will I still see closed captioning on my OPB digital channels?


Closed captioning is designed to assist deaf or hearing-impaired people, English Language Learners, young children learning to read and many others by displaying the dialogue or transcript of the audio portion of the program as printed words on the television screen. You will still be able to access closed captioning when you watch OPB's digital channels.



Will I still be able to use parental controls like the V-chip with digital TV?


Yes. The V-chip enables parents to block television programming based on a show's rating. The ratings are encoded within the television signal. The V-chip reads the encoded ratings information of each program and blocks shows according to the parents' blocking selections. FCC rules require that V-chips be built into digital televisions and other DTV reception devices just as they are now in analog televisions. You can learn about the ratings system, also known as "TV Parental Guidelines," at www.fcc.gov/vchip.



Will there be an effort to recycle the old analog TVs that are being replaced by digital TVs?


There are recycling programs for analog TVs and other electronic products. You can visit Oregon E-Cycles or E-Cycle Washington to locate recycling programs in your area. But remember, you can continue to use your analog TV set after the switch to digital TV.



What will happen if I don't switch to digital TV?


You will need to switch to digital in order to continue watching full-power TV stations after they begin all-digital broadcasting. Switching to digital TV is easy and inexpensive. Plus — once you make the change — you can start watching all of OPB's digital channels right away. Find out how to switch to digital TV.



Do you live in a rural area? Your digital conversion date will likely be later than that of OPB's full-power stations. Find out more.


I have more questions about how to make the switch to digital TV. What should I do?


OPB is here to help you make the digital switch. Contact us through our online form or call our Digital Help Center at 800.241.8123 for advice on your specific situation.