FCC Requires "Consumer Alert" Labels For TVs Affected By The Switch To Digital Television

The FCC will require retailers to warn consumers that certain television models will not work without additional equipment after the conversion to digital television in early 2009. The FCC nicely asked retailers to help educate the public, but concluded that voluntary efforts are “not working.”

After the switch to digital television, TVs will need a special converter box to receive a signal over the air. The converter boxes have not yet gone on sale, but are expected to hit the market in early 2008. Consumers who pay for cable or satellite service will be unaffected by the switch.

Most consumers are woefully unaware that any transition is underway, prompting the FCC to act. Effective May 25, retailers will be required to affix a “consumer alert” to television models that will require a converter box. We support educating the public, but we worry some scammy retailer may try to tell our grandmother: “You don’t want that 13 inch black and white TV. See, it has a ‘consumer alert’ from the FCC. That means it sucks. Here, buy this 90″ HDTV instead.” — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

FCC orders TV warning [AP]
PREVIOUSLY: The Conversion to Digital Television Is Going To Be Unpleasant
(Photo: G



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  1. gwong says:

    Please, a scammy retailer doesn’t need a shiny new FCC alert to screw a customer over.

  2. mopar_man says:

    concluded that voluntary efforts are “not working.”

    You’re kidding? Sales associates not being honest with the customers? Blasphemy!

  3. ArabRabbi says:

    This does take care of those who are shopping for new TVs. But what about those who, for whatever the circumstance, may not be in the market for a new TV?

    I can’t imagine the majority of groups like the poor or elderly who don’t have the money for cable – let alone a new TV – would be among those likely to see these labels.

  4. Nickoli says:

    Voluntary efforts will start working as soon as they have the conversion boxes to sell. In the UK, we expect to switch over at about the same time, and the boxes have been on sale for two years now. Everyone knows it’s happening. It helps that there are more channels once you make the switch (about 40 digital free-to-view, only five analogue).

  5. gamble says:

    When I use to work in Sears electronics, we were encouraged to tell customers about the switch to digital, but mainly as a technique to up-sell the customer to a more expensive TV.

    That reminds me of how shady our store was. We would have meetings sometimes and the general manager would kick off the meeting asking what our [the sales associates] number one goal was? People would say stuff like ‘customer service’ and the manager would be like, “well, thats important to, but what’s the most important thing?….MAKING MONEY!!”

    Employee turnover was really high there.

  6. TechnoDestructo says:


    Hasn’t Sears been in the doldroms for the last 20 years?

    You’d think someone would have caught on that maybe that approach isn’t working. It’s like letting a woman know all you care about is sex.

  7. Karl says:

    Since when does the FCC have authority over retailers? I could see the FTC doing this, but not the FCC.

    The FCC has tried for many years to extend their authority, with mixed success. For example, they’ve tried to limit your fair use rights by mandating DRM in digital tuners (the “broadcast flag“) before having that rule struck down by the courts.

    At any rate, bunny ears will still pull in VHF HDTV signals (and will usually look a lot better than the analog signals), provided that you have them connected to an appropriate tuner.

  8. shdwsclan says:

    What ???
    These tuners are on sale !!!!!
    Just check on ebay…
    They are dirt cheap…

  9. FLConsumer says:

    Would be nice if the HDTV/DTV standards in the US were worth switching to. Terrible signal reception on them compared to their analog counterparts.

  10. philipbarrett says:

    2009, the year my home goes from No Satellite/Cable to No TV at all. My kids are going to kill me.

  11. Slack says:


    Your statement is way too vague.

    Location with respect to Broadcast Antenna, and type of receiving Antenna effect DTV reception just like Analog.

    And when it comes in, it’s a perfect image, no ghosting, no noise, no heeringbones. Just pure picture.

  12. phoenixavatar2 says:

    “We support educating the public, but we worry some scammy retailer may try to tell our grandmother: “You don’t want that 13 inch black and white TV. See, it has a ‘consumer alert’ from the FCC. That means it sucks. Here, buy this 90″ HDTV instead.” “

    Seems you can’t win at Consumerist. Without the stickers, retailers would be selling those TVs to consumers who will suddenly realize that they won’t be able to get any TV on it. So they’ll head back and the salesman may try to sell them the converter box or he’ll probably try and sell them a new TV.

  13. FLConsumer says:

    @Slack: Bullshit. I’ve had TVs in my car since the mid 80’s. I recently added an HDTV tuner to the mix to see how it handled the mobile environment. It was able to get the channel list of local stations, but mostly black screens. Occasionally I’d get a single still screen that was jumbled, but that’s it. Switched back over to analog and I was able to receive reasonably clear images with clear sound (no static in the sound whatsoever). Same antenna system used for both analog & DTV.

    I then took the tuner and brought it inside my high-rise condo. Same deal. HDTV/DTV failed, analog came in clearer than the same channel does on Comcrap’s cable signal.

    Took the rig over to my workplace with rooftop VHF & UHF antennas. Surprise, surprise, a few more DTV channels worked, but not all and none worked perfectly. Called up one of my friends over at a local TV station engineering dept and he confirmed that it was going to take a lot stronger signal to get a workable DTV pic compared to analog. I knew this was the case back in 1998 when I had worked there, but was hoping things had changed.

    I asked him about what we’re supposed to do in hurricane times… he said he wasn’t sure… and that we’d probably be stuck with radios. You can’t run a 90″ HDTV off 4 AA batteries. He thought they might fire up the old analog transmitters, BUT, once that spectrum’s sold, good chance that can’t be done either.

    The HDTV system chosen for this country flat out sucks. ATSC is mutt of a format war pissing contest between manufacturers and networks. This was the perfect opportunity to lower prices and increase product choices for consumers by adopting the international standard, DVB, but nope, this country had to do something different, and half-assed at that.

    Current terrestrial digital television standards map:

    The map is a bit misleading as there’s no way in hell we have full coverage across the USA. In the UK, they’re saying that 98.5% of their population will be able to clearly receive digital TV. Additionally, digital TV in Europe also means they can receive digital radio channels AND have access to interactive content on their televisions. Granted, TeleText has been around for ages, but the current generation of iDTVs for sale in Europe have graphics similar to high-quality Flash animations we’re used to on the ‘web. Last time I checked, there’s no provision for this in the backwards-thinking American ASTC system.

  14. FLConsumer says:

    I should also point out that the UK is waiting until 2012 to totally shut down their analog signals and set top converters run