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Are stations going to be required to broadcast HDTV soon?

Local TV stations are soon going to change the way they broadcast their signals. The government has mandated they will all eventually provide their programming in a digital form, rather than analog. Once this transition to digital is complete, the analog signals will be shut down.

Does this mean they have to transmit High Definition Television (HDTV)? No, they do not. They only have to broadcast a Digital Television (DTV) signal. Digital television doesn't have to be HDTV. It doesn't even have to be widescreen like HDTV. It's up to individual stations to decide what format they wish to use. Local stations can choose to use the digital spectrum to broadcast multiple channels rather than show HDTV programming. The banner on the screen that claims the show is available in HD only means the networks are sending it to the local station that way. It doesn't mean you are actually seeing it in HD on your TV. Your local station may be downconverting it to SD.

The transition to digital also also only affects the local stations broadcasting over the air. Cable stations don't have to change over if they choose not to. The reason local stations have to go digital is the government wants the analog spectrum back to auction it off. They are essentially trading digital spectrum for analog.

In either case, there's a good chance your favorite stations will move to another channel if you receive them via an antenna instead of cable or satellite. You may need a converter box for your analog TV to view them. However, those with cable or satellite may not need to make any changes at all.

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