Monday, February 02, 2009

Learn the difference: HDTV versus DTV, what the conversion means for you

Special to the Director's Cut
By WKYC Web Reporter Kim Wendel

While Congress still debates whether to keep the changeover to digital television (DTV) on Feb. 17 or move it to June 12, people are still asking "What does the term 'high definition' really mean and will all TVs now have 'high definition' picture and sound after the changeover?"

The short answer? Unless you already have a high definition TV, you will get digital transmissions but not get 'high definition' viewing once the changeover occurs.

The difference is that all programming will be transmitted to you digitally and will be available for all to receive. Whether or not you decide to buy an HDTV or upgrade your cable or satelllite to HD to view it in high definition is up to you.

Digital television (DTV) and high definition television (HDTV) are two separate things.

Digital television (DTV) is the newest type of over-the-air broadcasting technology that allows TV stations to provide dramatically clearer pictures and better sound quality.

Analog television service, what is in existence now on all TVs, is the traditional method of transmitting signals.

The DTV transition is a transition from analog broadcasting to digital broadcasting. It is not a transition from analog broadcasting to high definition broadcasting.

Digital broadcasting allows for high definition broadcasts but high definition TVs are not required and you do not need to buy an HDTV to watch digital TV.

You will, however, need a converter box for your analog TV that uses an indoor or outdoor antenna, that is unless you have your TV hooked up to a cable system or have a satellite provider.

But whenever the DTV transition occurs, you will receive digital transmissions but, unless you have a "high definition" TV (HDTV), you will not being seeing the programs in the sharpest "high definition."

Cable companies will handle the switch from analog to digital for you but you will have to upgrade your cable service to high definition if you want to view your programs in 'high definition' HDTV.

You can watch high definition programming on a standard definition TV or on an analog TV hooked to a digital-to-analog converter box, but you won't be seeing it in full "high definition" quality.

You can go to the federal DTV information Web site at for more answers or to

Why the switch?

Analog is not as efficient as digital television. It uses up much more valuable spectrum than digital, and only allows TV stations to transmit one channel at a time.

Using the same amount of spectrum, a digital signal lets stations broadcast up to four or more programs at once. Analog is also susceptible to interference and "snow," making a picture less clear.

Standard-definition TV (SDTV) has a lower resolution than HDTV. Therefore, it has a lower quality picture.

However, SDTV and HDTV both use digital technology. The images on SDTV are of better quality than those of today's typical TV screens and SDTV supports stereo sound.

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