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Tonight, at 1159:59 PM over 400 of the 1796 U.S. television stations will permanently shut off their analog signals.  If you currently receive broadcast television from a cable or a satellite TV provider, your reception will not be affected.  However, if you are among the 5.8 million households (source Nielsen) that receive broadcast TV signals via an antenna, and stations in your market are shutting off their analog transmitters, you’ll need to have a digital tuner converter box or a TV with a built-in digital tuner to continue to get receive free broadcast TV programs.

Tonight’s shut off affects many small market stations, but also includes more populated areas including San Francisco and San Diego CA.  For the complete list of the TV stations shutting off their analog transmissions today, use this link .

If you are in one of the affected markets using an antenna for TV reception, you will need to purchase a DTV converter box.  They sell for around $40-$60 each and are available from a local stores including Radio Shack, Wal-Mart and Best Buy.  The government offers a program that will provide up to two $40 coupons that may be applied towards the purchase of (up to two) converter boxes per household.

The program recently ran out of funding, a problem that was rectified in the economic stimulus bill signed by President Obama today.  To learn more about the coupon program, go to this link.  Of course, it will take several weeks to receive your coupon.

Which Converter Buy Should You Purchase?

The HD Guru tested five converter boxes.  They are the Zenith DTT901, Apex DT250, GE 23333, Digital Stream DTX9950 and the Dish Network DTV Pal.

All the boxes tested came with remote control (w/batteries) and a coax cable.  All picked up at least 5 local stations using a Silver Sensor (by Philips) indoor antenna and 15 with a rooftop antenna.  All produced outstanding crystal clear video, except the GE, which produced some visible video noise.

The two outstanding performers were the Zenith and DTV Pal. Both had the excellent on-screen menus and top overall performance.

Once you connect your converter box to your analog TV and scan the tuner for all the digital channels in your area, you may discover one or more of your local TV station’s digital channels do not appear.  This is indicative that your present antenna is not up to the job of receiving the digital versions of your local stations.  Perhaps your old rooftop antenna is bent, needs to be re-aimed, or the connections have rusted.  You can go to antennaweb.org to learn more about choosing an adequate antenna for your locale.

They’ll Keep A Light On For You

In the markets where all of the four major TV network affiliates (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX) are dropping their respective programming tonight, one station has been picked to keep its analog transmitter functioning.  However, instead of broadcasting programming, there will appear a scroll telling viewers that they need to tune to the station’s digital signal to receive programs.  The FCC refers to this as Night Light service.

When Will The Rest of The Analog Stations Go Off The Air?

All remaining analog TV stations must permanently sign-off by June 12, 2009 with the recently enacted DTV Delay Bill.

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