What Is a Digital TV Tuner?

By Joe Fletcher

With the federally mandated changeover to digital television broadcasting taking effect Feb. 17, 2009, you may be wondering what is so special about a digital tuner. In order to receive television programming, you'll need to have one.


Digital television simply refers to the format television programming is broadcast in. Since television's inception, analog television has been the standard means of broadcast. Digital is a more efficient means of broadcasting and can provide better quality picture and sound. In order to process a digital signal, a digital tuner is needed.


Congress has passed a law mandating all full power television stations broadcast via digital signals as of Feb. 17, 2009. This will free up frequencies formerly used for analog television broadcasts to be used for other essential functions such as emergency service communications.


While cable and satellite users should receive a picture without any issues, those that use an antenna to receive free television broadcasts may need a separate digital TV tuner. If you own a digital television (DTV), it has a built-in digital tuner to process the digital broadcast information. If you have a digital-ready television, it requires the use of a separate digital tuner to receive programming.


If you receive television via antenna and have an older analog television, you'll need an digital-to-analog converter box in order to view television programming once the change goes into effect. As of March 1, 2007, all televisions imported and sold interstate had to include a digital tuner, as per FCC regulations. Effective May 25, 2007, any retailer selling an analog television had to clearly disclose that it did not include a digital tuner and would need a converter box come Feb. 17, 2009. If you own an older TV, it should state in the user manual whether it has a digital tuner, or you may need to contact the manufacturer for further details. High-definition TV is a type of digital television that is able to convert an HD signal, providing a higher-quality picture.


Some television terminology can be misleading. If your television is digital or HD "ready," or states that it has a digital monitor or HDTV monitor, it may not have a digital tuner and may require a separate tuner box. Refer to the manual or manufacturer for details.


In an effort to assist those who require a digital-to-analog converter box for free antenna viewing, the federal government offers up to two $40 coupons per household to be used toward purchase. For details, refer to the second resource link below.

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