Thursday, December 11, 2008

Viewer Beware of the HD Scare

TV Stations Are Switching to All-Digital, Not All-HD!
by Alan Eggleston, writer and editor

I learned something interesting today and I think you might find it interesting, too. All that hoopla over changing from analog TV to digital TV on February 17, 2009? And everyone bothering to switch to High Definition TV (HDTV) as a result? Well, the switch at local television stations isn't necessarily to high definition (HD), it's to digital. There's a difference.

Our family bought an HDTV as a family Christmas present this year, and today I had it set up by the Geek Squad. Afterwards, I went into my AT&T Uverse DVR schedule to reset recordings from standard stations to HD stations and discovered that not all programs on the HD channels are in high definition! Not by a long shot.

Even more interesting, the local stations that have been broadcasting the required notice of the change to digital broadcasting don't even offer local programs in HD. The news and other locally produced programs are in standard definition! I don't know if it will change after February 17, 2009.

And the networks don't carry all-HD programs, either. For instance, ABC-TV carries Ugly Betty in standard definition, not HD.

So before you go to the expense of buying an HDTV because of the conversion to digital, give it second thought. Oh, it will be wonderful to watch high definition programs on it. But when so many programs are still in standard definition, you have to wonder in today's economy if now is the time to junk the old TV when a $40-$70 converter box and set-top antenna will get you through. And certainly, if you have cable TV or satellite TV, are you gaining much for the expense right now?

Maybe you are smarter than I am and already know "digital" doesn't automatically mean "HD." But I'm willing to bet that there are a large number of consumers out there thinking the move to an HDTV will be getting them more than it does. My Geek Squad technician tells me this is a common misconception. Viewer beware.

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