DTV tests leave some viewers a little confused

HOUSTON [BE PREPARED: Answers to your DTV questions, plus videos showing you how to install the converter box]

If your television receives stations over the air via an antenna, and you don't have a digital TV converter, then you saw color bars with a message on how to prepare for the coming conversion.

You might have seen the message at 6:22am, 5:22pm and again at 10:22pm.

If you watch TV using just an antenna and have an older TV set, the message is your first warning that your TV signal is going away. If you don't take action by February, you will no longer get any television signals.

The transition to digital TV is being mandated by the federal government. The DTV tests around the nation are designed to give TV viewers a chance to find out if they are ready.

That's already confusing enough to some, but apparently some TV stations added to the problem.

Ideally those with cable, satellite or TV service from a phone company should not have seen the message, but some did and they were prompted to call their TV provider.

"We did get phone calls," said Michael Bybee with Comcast Cable. "A lot of our phone calls were from people who actually still watch TV using an antenna, so it was a wakeup call for those consumers."

All along we have been saying cable and satellite customers don't need to do anything to receive digital signals and they should not have seen the fail message, but apparently technical problems caused the fail message to appear on channels 2, 8, and 39. Even those who should not have seen it got the fail message.

Here at channel 13, the proper signals did reach viewers. For those who saw the fail message on KTRK, now is the time to prepare.

"You need to get a converter box or get a TV set with a digital tuner inside," said KTRK Chief Engineer Chuck Primrose. "Or cable or satellite."

There were other problems this morning, some cable companies do not receive channel 13's digital signal and that caused folks in Conroe to see the fail message on channel 13. That is an issue your cable company is working to fix. All those with new TV's did not see the fail message right? Actually not everyone.

This may be difficult to understand, but to see channel 13's digital signal on a TV set that has no cable or satellite, you need to physically change the channel.

You are accustomed to watching KTRK on channel 13, but when the digital era comes, those without cable or satellite will need to turn your sets to channel 13.1. Use your remote control to change the channel.

So if you aren't ready, what do you need to do?

Before February, those TV watchers who do not have cable, satellite or TV service from the phone company, or a TV set with a built in tuner will need to buy a digital tuner. The box will allow your older set to get digital signals and you can still use your antenna.

But you have to buy the converter box. You can get a $40 coupon from the government to offset the cost, and right now the boxes are being sold for around $50 (some cost a lot more). That means you'll only need to pay $10 to get the digital converter.

You can apply for the government coupon at 1-888-DTV-2009. Or you go to Here is a direct link.

The converter box is the least expensive way to get ready for the digital switch. If you have cable or satellite or TV service from the phone company and saw the fail message, call your TV provider. Some cable companies may not have the equipment needed to supply a digital signal yet, but upgrades are being made by those systems.

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