Netherlands Turns Off Analog TV; World Doesn't End

from the news-at-11 dept

For years and years, the FCC has wanted to reclaim some of the spectrum currently allocated to broadcasters to broadcast analog (free, over the air) TV. They gave the broadcasters a bunch more spectrum to convert to digital broadcasts, which the broadcasters have dragged their feet on for a variety of reasons (in large part because they knew they held onto a ton of valuable spectrum that the government had given them for free, and they wanted to try to profit off of it for as long as possible). Originally, they only would have to return the spectrum once 85% of the country could received digital broadcasts — meaning, as long as they took their time, they’d never have to do anything and could just sit on the spectrum. The government has been getting fed up and started putting deadlines on shutting down analog broadcasts, so hopefully we’ll see that happen before the decade is out. This really only impacts a very small percentage of people: those who have old sets and watch over-the-air broadcasts, rather than cable or satellite TV — but those folks tend to be vocal voters (often elderly) and politicians hate the idea of pissing off anyone’s grandmother. Still, they should feel good that over in the Netherlands, they’ve successfully turned off analog broadcasts as of today, and the world hasn’t ended.

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Comments on “Netherlands Turns Off Analog TV; World Doesn't End”

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Stu says:

They turned it off today, and the world didn’t end.

Well, you certainly took your time before reaching that conclusion, Mike. NOT!

Furthermore, I don’t think we’ll hear much from those that have been hurt financially or inconvenienced. Any arguments they might have had were “over there”, and they are long past.

I agree with you on the stance of the broadcasters.

Neal says:

You're joking right?

Between my siblings and parents we have in excess of twenty televisions – the oldest about five years old and the newest only a few months. We have six dish PVRs, 2 Direct TV systems, and two cable boxes. Only one of those TVs is HD compatible and every single one, yes every one, is still making use of the antenna input to tune in local stations. Sure, a few use the video outputs, the s-video outputs, and so on but every one uses AND depends on standard analog broadcast television daily.

Sorry, most of this county is rural and most televisions analog. Premiums to view local channels (some, not all, are available) on Dish are an additional $10 per month and they go out during every decent rain or big storm (when we need local the most). I’m not certain but believe cost on DirectTV is the same. To get locals on cable – $15 extra per month. No more analog and the only option being $120+ per family per year or the purchase of 20 digital recievers with analog outputs… the world will end if that switchover is forced without 5-10 years of all TVs sold in the US supporting both.

Matt (profile) says:

Re: You're joking right?

So the U.S. should be allowed to lag even further behind the rest of the developed world… because you and your family own a bunch of TVs that are so close to obsolesence that they can smell it? Because the “U.S. is rural,” we should delay dumping the analog TV broadcasts?

This same line of thinking would have meant that we would have delayed mass production of the automobile because a lot of people still rode horses and travelled by horse-drawn cart. It’s also like saying that we aren’t going to sell home computers because a few people got spooked by HAL in 2001.

I’m sorry that you and your family own a colony of non-hi-def TVs, but I don’t agree that they should delay (yet again) the change-over because you don’t want to suck it up and face the inevitable: you are going to need to adapt to the new economic reality and either buy a new TV, a new converter, or cable service. Sorry, but that’s the way that it happens.

Don’t like it? Then I don’t know what to tell you other than stick to watching your VHS tapes.

The sun will still rise in the East and set in the West… Kids will still be born, and people will still die, and George Bush will still be an idiot. The world won’t end… Just your ability to watch it using technology that is rapidly hurtling towards total obsolensence.


Ken (profile) says:

Re: Re: You're joking right?

And the world will not end if we DON’T switch over either. Now will it? Not everyone can afford to switch or want to switch. Some of us have other things we need our money for like feeding our kids, paying our mortgage and other nonessential stuff like that. Call me strange, but I think my kids need to eat long before I need to see a little clearer picture on my TV.

Gxh says:

Re: Re: You're joking right?

You seem to be assuming that digital is better. In the UK analogue switch off is phased from 2008 to 20012. However so many channels have been squeezed into the digital spectrum that the picture quality is now worse than the analogue one it replaces, and the ‘interactive’ service is nowhere near as usable as old fashioned teletext.

Frank says:

Re: Re: You're joking right?

So the U.S. should be allowed to lag even further behind the rest of the developed world…

Horrors!! The U.S. doesn’t have the clearest television reception. How absolutely dreadful!

because you and your family own a bunch of TVs that are so close to obsolesence that they can smell it?

Obsolesence? My 17 year old TV is going strong and looks just as good as it did when it was brand new. It was built to last — old fashion concept, I know.

The only reason that his 5 year old TV is near “obsolesence” is that the government wants to force digital broadcast. Otherwise, his TV is just fine.

By the way, for me, I don’t care. We don’t do cable, broadcast, or satellite. The kids have to read for entertainment and are doing much better in school as a result.

If you’re really interested in freeing up spectrum have the government take back the digital broadcast spectrum that they gave away and then auction it off in 25 year chunks. After all, people who have HD TVs are probably the same people who have cable or satellite. There’s no reason to give them a free ride on the public air waves.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Re: Re: You're joking right?

Yeah, more misinformation. Switching to digital does not make your TV obsolete. It makes the tuner inside your TV obsolete. I’m fairly certain that a company or two will develop digital turners that can be added to your TV. I’m sure they will come with your standard cable connection – some might even come with RCA video, component and maybe HDMI.

Ron says:

Re: Re: You're joking right? - Are you crazy?

“Just your ability to watch it using technology that is rapidly hurtling towards total obsolensence.”

The only reason that the technology “is rapidly hurtling towards total obsolensence” is that the government is forcing it. The analog signals still work fine, and I have not yet found a replacement for my 13″ portable that I take camping and fishing that will work with digital.

I say that when the “shutdown analog day” comes, file a massive class action suit against the government to replace ALL analog equipment that suddenly stops working. And that’s not just TVs, but also VCRs, DVRs, DVD recorders, and portable radios with TV band audio to name a few others. Why should we pay large sums of money because of a STUPID whim of our government?!?!?!

And, yes, the broadcasters will lose large numbers of viewers when this happens, that is why they are not in any hurry to switch!

You can’t buy replacements for some of these items that will support digital signals!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You're joking right?

Stations in my area (and most, I suspect) are simulcast over-the-air in digital. The digital over-the-air broadcasts are often better than what you get on cable or satellite, because the cable companies like to compress their digital TV to save on their bandwidth costs.

Most newer TVs pick up digital over-the-air broadcasts, or you buy a tuner for your older ones. Problem solved – anything that frees up bandwidth for potentially fun-and-exciting stuff like WiMax is fine by me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You're joking right?

Are you an idiot? “To get locals on cable – $15 extra per month” Where are you getting this information? I’ve had cable for 6 years and have never been charged extra for local channels. They have always come with the standard basic cable package. If you don’t like paying $10 more per month for local channels, stop having Dish and get cable. Otherwise, shut up.

George says:

Re: You're joking right?

YES! We HAD Dishnetwork, but at every rainstorm, snowstorm, out it went. So guess what? Back to good old channel 6, the only local station we can get here in the mountain valley of Eastern NY. In fact, dishnetwork was so unreliable, we’ve dropped it for good…and the cost! Guess what, again? Local TV is, get this, FREE! AND the kids grades went up with the loss of Dishnetwork….hmmm,

Paul says:

Time will tell...

They turned it off today, so it has been off for what, a few hours? 12 hours? 24 hours max.

There is no way to tell what kind of consequences will result from it until time passes. TV stations in the Netherlands might find that they only have 25% the viewers that they did previously, but there is no way to know by the short few hours after you pull the plug.

Lutomes (user link) says:

Analogue in Australia

We apparently have some plan here to cut over to digital only. I think the original date was something like 2008. I have no idea if that has changed now.

In our household of 4 people, we have 6 TVs only one of which can receive Standard definition digital (Australia is getting High Def Digital). And that tv is small portable LCD with a dvd player. Great in the kitchen, but its not a “viewing” TV.

When we do make the cut to digital I’m considering setting up a PC to receive digital from the antenna, and pipe back out in analogue through the existing lines around the house. Or just buying the set top boxes – but I can’t “tinker” if i do that :p.

New HDTV owner says:

I'll admit

I don’t watch much “broadcast” tv these days but as a new HDTV owner I can assure you than here in a fairly large population area concentration in South Carolina HD reception sucks.

you either get it or you don’t. I can see how this would be a pain in the arse to people not willing to either afford satellite TV or be screwed by Charter cable in our area.

It wouldn’t hurt me, but it’s not time yet to pull the plug in the US

Rick says:

The original date for switching in the US was like 2000, it has been extended about 6 times now to 2009.

If you have cable or satellite (with a box) this will not affect you.

If all you watch is the grainy local channels with rabbot ears – the government is going to BUY you a box that will convert the new digital broadcast signals to analog.

So nobody in the US will lose out either, other than the minor inconvenience of hooiking up a box to their TV.

The signals will be stronger and most television stations will begin broadcasting 2-4 channels rather than their current single channle. (Actually many major market stations already do this – digitally) The main problem with digital broadcasts at the moment seems to be very low quality antennas on the market, possibly due to the feet dragging conglomerates who hate change. This will only improve as people demand better – which will happen as soon as the deadline nears and people try out the new upgrade boxes.

The old unused analog spectrum will eventually be used for wireless broadband for everyone, everywhere as well as a host of new services.

This is the future, deal with it….

Ron says:

Re: Re:

O.K. So an STB (Set Top Box) for the existing analog TVs. Yet another remote control to worry with. And that will not help with the small portable battery powered TVs that people take camping or use for emergencies when the power is off! And what about my wife’s portable radio with TV audio, and my son’s Casio hand held color TV????

Alex says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wahh you old casio TV, wahh your portable radio.
Wahh you old 1940’s 210 lines TV that won’t work.
Wahh what about your laserdiscs not working on DVD players.
Wahh what about all that 8-track content you have
Wahh what about that old analog satellite recievier not working with new digital services into’d in the early nineties
Wahh Wahh march of progress / capitalism / consumerism

If you want to be a luddite go become Amish.

No One says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Heck, I agree with you. I don’t know aboutanyone else, but I’m ready to move onto something a bit better. If we can use analog spectrum for something cool, pull the plug–it will only benefit us in the long run. I mean hell, why do we broadband internet when analog dial-up was just fine? Progress people…we’re in the 21st century–act like it. For all the whiners, here are my two big questions: one, why the hell are people so hung up on TV anyway? Why not read–it’s a dying art. Two, I always thought camping was to get away from everything and experience nature…not watch TV. Pshaw.

South Carolinian says:

State by State

This is clearly a problem that the entire country could not address at once, it would be up to state governments, not national, to determine whether or not analog signals should be broadcast. Here in South Carolina I know many families who cannot get cable television and cannot afford satellite so they are using the same set of bunny ears that they’ve been using for 30 years. On the same television. That’s because SC is technologically inferior. Sure you’ll have that in every state but I think it’s safe to say that California could cut off its analog broadcasting.

Stu says:

Matt said, “So the U.S. should be allowed to lag even further behind the rest of the developed world… ?

Lag at what . . . watching TV? Omigawd, I’d be so embarassed.

“This same line of thinking would have meant that we would have delayed mass production of the automobile . . . . .”

The government didn’t force anyone to buy a car, or stop using horse and carriage. That happened the good old free enterprise way. People made their own choices. Ditto for computers.

“Don’t like it?”

No. I don’t like being forced into consumer type decisions. And if we never – ever – went all digital,

“The sun will still rise in the East and set in the West… Kids will still be born, and people will still die, and George Bush will still be an idiot. The world won’t end…”

Frank says:

Re: Re: Auction off both spectrums

No. Lag at making good use of the spectrum currently owned and wasted by TV broadcasters

The government could reclaim the spectrum given to the broadcasters for HDTV signals. After all, those with HDTVs are more likely to have satellite or cable (or at the very least more likely to afford it).

Once the spectrum is back in government hands, they should auction it off in 25 years chunks (versus just giving it away).

Actually, they should probably do this with both HDTV and analog TV spectrum. If TV is really the best use of the spectrum then companies will spend to get it.

Jeff says:

Re: Re: Re:

Lag at what . . . watching TV? Omigawd, I’d be so embarassed.

No. Lag at making good use of the spectrum currently owned and wasted by TV broadcasters. It’s a TON of incredibly useful spectrum. It would enable wireless communications much better than what we have now.

Mike, I’m curious as to what specific things you believe WOULD happen as a result, what specific examples of “much better” communications would occur. Just because the spectrum suddenly becomes available does not necessarily mean that the government and commercial forces will decide to use it, and even then, sometimes such forces merely use what is available and not guaranteeing a better product. Or are you just saying that the newly-released spectrum is of frequences which THEORETICALLY would enable better communications, since those frequence bands are inherently better for communications (which is part of the reason why they were selected for analog TV in the first place)??

Thanks for any clarification you decide to post.

Dan says:


Local stations are an important way to get news, and cutting off those who can’t pay for cable causes them harm. While we don’t need the current 68 channels, some (possibly bands I and III (2-6,7-13) should be reserved for decades to come as free stations available to all (even those with 30 year old equipment in bumphuk, SC).

The Original Just Me says:


Sam: No, you are wrong.

Rick: Close, but some people won’t know about the program or will be afraid to participate because they are worried about being scammed.

Frank: Radios don’t work so well for the deaf and hard of hearing.

My thoughts: The entire plan is a bit ill-concieved. I have 2 HD TVs and both regular and HD DirecTV dishes, but I’m still concerned that I will miss local news on my portable/DC televisions during (admittedly rare) emergencies (US power outage in 2003, the ice storm of 98, etc.).

Anonymous Coward says:

There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country
the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out
of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts
are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future,
even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest.
This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law.
Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court
and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.
o Life Line, 1939 – Robert Heinlein

claire rand says:

uk.. freeview...

similar situation in the uk, digital switch over etc.

I’ve got a few older tv’s and no real plans to change them soon (they work). got a ‘freeview’ box, converts digital signals to analog, output via a SCART cable to my tv, works reasonably.

only problem is the sodding thing keeps freezing, also when reception is poor you get nothing, with analog you could watch it even if it was poor.. progress i guess.

I’m in the catagory of ‘as long as it works’ the little freeview box costs 20ukp, no record features, minimal ‘interactive’ (no upwards connection) but it works. basically think of your tv as a monitor, it just displays what its told to via the SCART input.

like i say the only problem is the digibox is obviously a computer of some sort, and tends to crash if you press the remote buttons to fast.

I’d give it 8/10, i dare say you’ll get something similar stateside, but if you are getting a $50 credit towards the cost expect it to cost *at least* $50… mind you over here we have to buy our own 🙁

ken (profile) says:

Get off your high horse

I’m sick of people who have $$$!!!! They have their 3 HDTV’s and their portable DC TV’s 2 dishes etc etc etc. They never stop to think that not everybody can afford this stuff. In fact a large percentage can’t.
And great. the Gov’t will give me $50 credit towards a new tuner. (probably in our taxes) That means I need to come up with the money first THEN they’ll give it back. And how much will these tuners cost? $100? Just great!

The whole thing is just stupid. The gov’t trying to tell us what we need. I thought they were supposed to be working for us!

Alex says:

Digital doesn't = HD

The US and Europeans here are talking at cross purposes (i am a brit who lives in the US.)

Digital doesn’t equal HD in europe (like it seems to in the US). For example freeview in the UK is standard definition TV over digital signal. All the turn off means is that you need a new tuner (called a freeview box) that costs anyting from GBP20 to 100.

The UK has had the digital service for nearlly 4years now, the price of the freeview box had plummeted, turnoff isn’t complete untill 2012. Many TVs now come with built in free view tuners. The same masts used to broadcast analog are used to broadcast digital. HD is possible over freeview but not in production yet. The European system uses DVB-T a verry common world wide standard that is being adopted verywhere except US and Japan. This is also driving down costs.

Simply put there is no reason why this can’t work in the US if the FCC had a coherent plan, which they don’t. Costs will be higer in the US initiall because the only digital signal systme in US is ATSC – which is unique to the US. This is like mobile phones all over again, the US adopts a different standard from the world and lags.

Howver there is no reason a decent plan won’t work in rural america as well as it will work in rural france, germany or UK.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

Analouge TV gradually decays as signal quality gets worse, meaning that you can still watch it. Digital is an all-or-nothing service,and so when the signal goes bad in heavy rain, the programme is unwatchable. The other problem with Digital TV in Australia is the 7 and 10 insist on using sattelite links with so little excess power that they are virtually unwatchable in thte rest of Australia when it rains in Sydney, rather than using cable links to the other capitals, which would probably be cheaper and certainly more reliable.

I was in the ice strom of ’98, near DC, and I must say that the Fireworks from the High-tension power lines was something to see. It did stike me as somewhat stupid that places with power were being annouucnde on TV (I saw this before the power went down in my area), but not on radio. Now to me It seems better to use radio, since a battery radio is lighter, more poratble, and lasts longer than a portable TV, especially in those days when you still had to be pretty rich to have a decent LCD one.

Sandy says:

Free Air Waves

If you really want to go “free” and have the very best in emergency communications, try Amateur Radio. There are “hams” all over the world who would love to chat with you. You can even talk to the guys on the space station! AND, you can do it over your PC if you want. It’s all FREE! Get your kids interested in that for a lifetime of free air waves and they’ll never be out of touch.

steve says:

Re: no excuses

i fail to see how switching over is such a problem, when you can buy a set top box for such a small price. if u r that poor that you cant afford a box wen i have seen cheapest for like 30 dollars then how do you afford the electricity for the old tv. the government has given so long for the transition that you could have saved a dollar a month and afforded a set top box, for every tv in the house. in my opinion enbrace the change over, we all did when it came to the change over in mobiles.

Mike M says:

So where are the battery powered converters?

The Gov thinks they are smart in planning for future emergencies, but what happens when all the power is knocked out like the Northeast Region was a few years back? All the TV-top converters and fancy new digital TVs just won’t substitute for the older LCD analogs that can run on as little as 4 AA baterries and fit in your pocket, can be carried in your car glove compartment and viewed by others in the car while you’re sitting backed up in emergency escape traffic on the freeway trying to evacuate town, AND can pick up even distant stations outside of the immediate area (closeby ones may well all be down anyway in a true emergency). Perhaps this is what the Gov truly wants in an emergency situation, a captive, uninformed docile public… but will they truly remain that way, not knowing how soon help will arrive? Remember the looting in New Orleans?
Also what about RVs with built-in analog sets and no room to squeeze in a converter. Junk them all?
Except for satellite, EVERY radio station today is still compatible with every crystal set, floor standing tube radio, and portable transistor radio or car radio ever produced, but with the reletivly recent automation of radio stations these days, very, very few of them carry real-time local evacuation news of any real use to fleeing emergency victims.
I still own functioning 8-track player/recorder, 3 ‘vinyl’ phonographs, a reel-to-reel recorder and a betamax recorder. Every public road built today is still backwardly compatible with every motorized or even ox-drawn vehicle ever used if desired, every telephone ever hooked up to the telephone system is still functional, even though new ones are available for $5 (my Mom still uses a standard black, hard-wired, rotary dial phone installed by the phone company in the 40’s), 90% of PC software ever written is still usable on every new computer produced today and until now every TV show broadcast is still compatible with the oldest black-and-white TV set still working…
It’s called “backwards compatibility” and most companies (except apparently Apple…) would be out of business quickly if they didn’t support it. I know the Gov doesn’t know the meaning of it, since they still stupidly, gladly pay regularly for $200 hammers and $5000 toilet seats, that are obsolete in 3 years, but they cannot be allowed to force it on the rest of us. Is this perhaps their way of solving the recession problem by making everyone spend money on new TV equipment and support the electronics industry?
I wonder if people who bought extemded warrantees on sets which will stop working in 2009 will need be ‘repaired’ or replaced for free. What kind of uproar will this cause among the insurance industry whose lobbyists MIGHT actually be big enough to be heard by the Gov? How about all of us who bought high-end TVs from manufacturers prior to 2005 expecting them to last reliably, without additional maintenance and expense, for at least 5-10 years? What are our rights? What about the first person who dies in late Feb 2009 because they didn’t receive the TV news notification of a fatal approaching weather pattern or flood evacuation?

greg says:

pocket tv

Gawd do i agree!
I have 3 tv’s, 2 pocket lcd tv’s and 1 12 volt camping tv. Please post the “ship to” address for every congress member and ship your old, but fully functional TV to them. It’s cheaper than the local landfill charges.
I called the digital tv 800 # and asked for a battery powered downconvertor, they couldnt respond. So, no more power outage tv’s!

Please ship every tv you own that you know is now made obsolote! give them a hint!

Alfredo says:

A few problems...

The 8-VSB modulation scheme used in the US doesn’t deal very well with changing multipath conditions. Thus, in a vehicle, a DC powered TV with a DTV tuner or with a converter box will work when the vehicle is parked, but not when it is moving. Did it occur to the geniuses who evaluated the different systems that perhaps some passengers of buses or motor homes might want to watch newscasts and football while they cruise down the road?

The spectrum taken up by some of the decommissioned channels, such as UHF channels 52-69 is going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. There is no guarantee that what goes on these chunks of spectrum will be something that you can use nor that you will be able to use it for free. For instance, Qualcomm was awarded a nationwide license for what was formerly UHF channel 55 to be used for their MediaFlo system. These are multiplex audio and video broadcasts to mobile phone handsets. But guess what–you have to pay a subscription fee to receive them.

They say that the house always wins, and in this case, that is true. The “house” is the FCC, which will be collecting the big bucks in the spectrum auctions.

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