Digital Channels FAQ
What is digital television or DTV?
Digital television, or DTV, is a higher quality, more efficient way to transmit TV signals than the traditional analog TV system. DTV provides better picture and sound quality and takes up less broadcast space. DTV makes it possible for stations to provide more free programming. As part of the move to digital television, sections of the broadcasting spectrum has been made available for new technology, including better communications for public safety service providers.
As a Pioneer Public TV viewer, you could receive four digital channels over the air instead of just one. On a digital television, these free over-the air channels come through with a dash and another number, such as 10-1 through 10-4 (Appleton area) or 20-1 through 20-4 (Chandler-Worthington).
The transition to digital broadcast television came about because of Congressional action . Federal law required full-power analog television transmitters to shut down in 2009. Low-power analog transmitters were allowed to continue operating at that time, but will be required to shut down by 2015.
What does "over-the-air" television mean?
"Over-the-air" television means that you receive your signal through a roof-top antenna or a set-top antenna (commonly called rabbit ears). The viewers most directly affected by the digital transition have been "over-the-air" viewers. Most cable or satellite television viewers have not been directly affected by the digital television transition.
Who needs to get new TV equipment?
Whether or not the DTV transition affected you directly depended on how you receive television.
Cable and satellite viewers have, in most cases, not been affected. Viewers of community UHF systems should check with the local system operator. Viewers who watch Pioneer’s digital signal over-the-air need to have a TV with a built-in digital tuner or a digital-to-analog converter box.
What are the benefits of DTV?
There are two major benefits of digital TV: access to more free over-the-air channels and the option to get HDTV. For example Pioneer is currently broadcasting four digital channels from Appleton and Worthington with the Fergus Falls transmitter going digital in late October 2011. The first of these four channels is broadcast in high definition (HD). The only way to get true HD quality on your television is to use a HD set and get a high-definition signal either over-the-air, from a satellite service or from a cable provider.
How is a digital signal different than analog?
Digital signals behave differently in two important ways. The first issue is signal loss. When an analog signal gets weak, it gradually turns to what most people call "snow." When a digital signal is weak, the image may suddenly lock, and sections drop out. After that you may get a message that says "low signal." The second issue is the way digital signals move and bounce around. In some cases nearby objects such as trees or buildings may affect how you receive a digital signal. The best thing to do is try to adjust your antenna until you receive the highest quality signal. On many new digital sets, there are signal strength indicators. Check your owners manual to find out how to get access to these indicators.
What is on the new digital channels?
As you scan for digital channels, you will find a variety of programs. At Pioneer we are currently offering four digital channels over the air. All these channels are on the air 24 hours a day. Program schedules and descriptions are updated regularly on www.pioneer.org
Are these digital channels available over cable or satellite?
Some cable providers are retransmitting our digital channels. If you would like these channels on your local cable or satellite system, please contact your cable or satellite provider.
How do I know if my TV has a built-in digital tuner?
The easiest way is to check your owners manual. Another is by doing what is called a channel scan. By using your remote, you can scan for signals in your area. If the tuner says that it is looking for analog and digital channels then you know that you have a TV with a built-in digital tuner.
Will my older TV sets still work after the transition?
Yes, however most older sets will need a converter box to receive over-the-air signals. If your TV uses a roof-top antenna or set-top antenna and does not have a built-in digital tuner, you need to purchase a converter box or subscribe to a pay TV service such as satellite or cable to continue using the same TV set. TV sets that are decades old will still work for over-the-air television if you use a converter box.
Can I still get free TV?
Yes. Free television is not going away. You can still receive free TV over the air with an antenna just as you do now as long as your TV has a built-in digital tuner or is connected to a converter box.
Do I need a converter box for each over the air television in my home?
Yes. You need a converter box for each television on which you receive an over-the-air signal. You cannot split the signal in one place and feed it to multiple televisions unless you want to have all the televisions tuned to the same channel.
How do I hook up a converter box?
Attach the cable from your antenna into the "antenna in" connection on the back of the converter box. Another cable attaches to the converter box and runs from the converter box to your TV.
Once your converter box is attached to your TV and plugged in, follow the instructions in your converter box manual to tune in your TV. After that you use your converter box to scan for digital channels in your area to tune in the digital channels you want to watch.
The number of digital channels you find will depend on where you live. Most full-power TV stations are running from two to four digital channels. Converter boxes are easy to operate because they come with a remote.
How do I hook up a VCR or DVD player and a converter box?
If you have a VCR or DVD player and a converter box, here is the most common way to hook both up to your TV. If your television has red, white and yellow input jacks, you can use those jacks to connect your VCR to your TV because your converter box connects through a different connection. If you have any older TV that does not have red, white and yellow input jacks, you might want to use a combiner or an A-B switch. Electronics stores sell these items, which allow you to bring signals from two different sources into your TV.
What if I have an older TV that does not have standard connections?
Even if your TV is decades old, you should still be able to use a converter box. In some cases, you may need an additional small adapter for your TV. For the connection from the converter box to your TV, you may need an adapter. Adapters are available at electronics stores and are often available at hardware stores.
With a converter box, can I get a high-definition (HD) signal?
A channel that is broadcast in HD can be received through a converter box, but it will not be a true HD display. The signal will be down-converted through the box to a standard definition signal. The only way to get true high-definition quality is through an HD television monitor.
Where are digital over-the-air TV broadcasts now available?
Digital over-the-air broadcast signals are available in most areas. For example, if you received Pioneer's traditional analog signal over-the-air from our Appleton, Worthington or Fergus Falls tower, you should be able to receive our digital signal as well.
How can I receive these new digital television signals?
You will need a television with a built-in digital tuner or a converter box. The converter box takes a digital signal and converts it to analog so your analog television can process it. If you install a converter box, you can tune your television through the converter box, and you will receive digital signals.
If I get television from a satellite service, but I have not chosen to pay extra for local channels, can I use a digital receiver to get extra channels?
Yes. Pioneer has received calls from viewers who use a satellite service to get additional channels, but use a separate antenna to receive their local television channels. Depending on where you live, you could get anywhere from two to 20 digital channels based on how close you are to various TV station transmitters.
Should I buy a new antenna for over-the-air DTV viewing?
Your existing antenna should work. If you find that you need a better antenna, set-top models are available for about $30. If you decide to move from a set-top to a roof-top antenna, a traditional style antenna should work for you.
Is all digital TV in HD?
The terms digital television (DTV) and high definition television (HDTV) are often used in the same sentence, but they are not the same thing. HDTV is the highest quality form of DTV. Not all DTV is high definition. Here is how it looks by the numbers: traditional television signals might be rated at a resolution of 480. This is sometimes called standard definition (SD). HDTV may have a resolution as high as 720 or 1080, a clearer and sharper picture. The higher the number is, the greater the resolution and the sharper the picture will be.
Why is the screen size or image size different?
Traditional analog television was broadcast with an image size called four-by-three. This means that it was four units wide by three units high. New digital television images and television screens are a different size called 16 by 9. This means 16 units wide by 9 units high. This comparison of height and width is called the aspect ratio. Because of this change in size, more programs are being shot in what is called a wide-screen format. When you see one of these wide-screen images, you might see it on a traditional television in what is called a letterbox format with black lines on the top and bottom. When you use a new wide-screen digital television, and you watch a program that was taped in the older format, you will see black lines on the side.