The Transition to DTV FAQ

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An introduction to DTV from Norm and Kevin

Broadcast television has evolved and is now exclusively available in a new digital format called digital TV or DTV.

All full-power TV stations were required to move to all-digital broadcasts by June 12th. To watch free over-the-air television today, your television needs to be equipped to receive digital TV signals.

Find answers to the most common DTV questions below.

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What is DTV?

Digital television or DTV can refer to:

  • digital television signals that provide high quality picture and sound;
  • the efficient and flexible technology for broadcasting digital signals over-the-air; or
  • a TV set with a built-in digital tuner (to receive over-the-air digital television).

When is DTV going to be available?

DTV is here now and it's the only broadcast option for full-power TV stations in the United States.

By law, all full-power TV stations switched to exclusively broadcasting digital television on June 12, 2009.

Why did we move to all-digital TV?

DTV has many advantages over the old analog system. The switch to all-digital television broadcasts provides viewers with such benefits as improved sound and picture quality and more channel choices.

Will my TV still work after the transition?

Yes, however it may need an upgrade to get a digital signal. If your TV is connected to cable or satellite or it has a built-in digital tuner (how do I know?), it will work without an upgrade. If, however, your TV uses an antenna and does not have a built-in digital tuner, you will need to connect it to a digital converter box to receive DTV signals.

Can I still watch free TV?

Yes, you can still receive free television over the air with an antenna. To do so, your TV must be connected to an antenna and either have a built-in digital tuner or be connected to a converter box. It is possible that you may need to upgrade your current antenna. For more antenna information, visit

What is the difference between DTV and HDTV?

The terms digital television (DTV) and high definition television (HDTV) are often used interchangeably, but they are NOT the same thing. DTV refers to all digital television; HDTV is the highest quality form of DTV. Not all digital television is high-definition.

Is anything else about DTV different?

In addition to providing better quality picture and sound, other benefits to DTV include more channel choices and more program information. DTV allows stations to "multicast" or send multiple streams of programming. This means that instead of your normal channel 12, you might receive channels 12-1, 12-2, 12-3 and 12-4.

DTV also allows stations to broadcast program information along with the actual programs. With all-digital broadcast television, you should also receive information like program titles and schedule information in an on-screen guide.

What other online resources are there about DTV?

For information on the DTV converter box coupon program and to apply for coupons, visit

For information about reception issues and antenna troubleshooting, visit

For additional information about DTV, visit the FCC DTV Web site

For information about recycling your old TV, visit

How can I help spread the word about DTV in my neighborhood or community?

You can pass on the address, print and share the DTV handouts on this site, give the presentation available on this site at a meeting with friends, family or co-workers, or connect with your local PBS station to volunteer at a local DTV event.

Check out a DTV troubleshooting guide to get basic advice on a range of DTV reception issues from Norm Abram and visiting DTV expert Dennis Wallace.

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Still have a question? Contact your local PBS station or write the PBS Viewer Services department. (Please note that due to staffing limitations, we are unable to respond to inquiries that are addressed by our DTV Frequently Asked Questions page.)

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