Digital TV Switch: Last-Minute Tips

No "American Idol"? No "Scrubs"? No late night comics to fall asleep to?

Millions of Americans who use "rabbit ears" or rooftop antennas to watch TV may find themselves staring at snow tonight when they try to tune-in to their favorite programs.

Despite a congressional decision earlier this month to postpone the transition to digital television to June 12, hundreds of the country's television stations will make the switch today.

That means potentially millions of Americans might need to give their television a minor operation before it's going display a clear picture again.

VIDEO: Digital conversion guide for your TV

Of the nation's nearly 1,800 full-power television stations, 220 will have made the switch from analog to digital before Tuesday. By 11:59 p.m. tonight, another 421 will have terminated their analog signals, according to the Federal Communications Commission. (For a full list of the stations switching today, click here.)

But according to a recent poll from Nielsen research, more than 6.5 million U.S. households are not ready for the transition to all-digital broadcasting.

If you're one of those TV watchers suddenly without a signal, don't worry. Here are a few tips to get your set up and running in no time.

How To Make the Digital Switch

1) Before you panic and head out to your local electronics store, make sure your TV's not already digital-ready.

To help make the process a little easier, the broadcasting industry's DTV Transition Coalition created a searchable database to help you figure out if your television has a built-in digital tuner.

If you can't find it there, check your television for any labels or markings that indicate that it contains a digital tuner. Statements to look for include: "Integrated Digital Tuner," "Digital Receiver," "DTV," ATSC" or "HDTV."

Televisions that are 25 inches or larger, or were purchased since 2005, are more likely to have a digital tuner.

If your television was purchased before 1998 or is a smaller LCD set (15- to 18-inches) it probably has an analog tuner.

Also, TVs labeled as "HD-ready," "Digital Ready" and "Digital Monitor" may sound promising but don't necessarily contain a digital tuner.

From Analog to Digital TV

If you're still not sure if your TV has a built-in digital tuner, check the manual, other instructional materials or the manufacturer's Web site, or contact your consumer electronics retailer.

2) Once you know you have an analog television, weigh your options.

If you already have cable or satellite service, you're in good shape. But if you're only reliant on rooftop antennas or rabbit ears, you'll have to choose one of a few options to upgrade your TV for the new digital era.

In the $40-$70 range, a digital-to-analog converter box is the cheapest option, especially in this economy.

But if you're in the market for a new TV, anyhow, you could potentially find one with a built-in digital tuner starting at $200.

Or, for $20 or more a month (not including the cost of renting the equipment), you could subscribe to cable, satellite or other premium television services.

(For more information on your options, visit the government's transition Web site here.)

3) If you want to stick with your current TV and programming options, buy a converter box.

Walk into any consumer electronics retailer and they should be able to help you find an digital-to-analog converter box. They range in price from $40 to $70, but consumer advocates say you should be just fine with the lower-end models.

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