DTV is okay by me

Our house is probably one of the last on earth that does not have cable. I’m too economically savvy (a/k/a cheap) to pay for television. Don’t get me wrong. If I go to your house and you have it, I’m going to find HGTV. But to pay for something that’s been free for as long as I can remember, me no can do.

Many years ago we had cable access through the building we lived in. I’d watch the gardening shows and the cooking shows and the decorating shows. I didn’t realize how much time I spent watching TV until after the cable was gone. Once I didn’t have such interesting stuff to watch on TV I spent more time working, and my income went up that year enough to buy a Chevrolet Corvette…well, in 1970 dollars anyway.

WGN recently conducted a digital TV readiness test.  At 6:53 a.m. the test started. They used the WGN icon, Bozo the Clown, to help with the test. If your TV was not ready for the conversion, you’d see Bozo on the screen saying, “If you can see me right now, that means you’re not ready for America’s conversion to DTV, digital television.”

Imagine how surprised I was to seeBozo the Clown on my relatively new HDTV that I got last year. The TV was one of my best bargains. Between the store sale, the store coupon and a price match, I got the TV for half the original price.

Okay. I’m thinking no wonder the TV was on sale. It must be defective. Now I’ve got to find my receipt and get on the phone and start bugging the manufacturer about fixing this piece of junk. Since we’ve had the television, the only channels that look extra good are CBS and WCIU. I figured it was because the digital signals haven’t started transmitting yet.

Trying to troubleshoot I started looking through the menu on the television and noticed that the digital setting were grayed out. Translation: My digital TV has no digital signal. I can feel my anger growing and growing and growing …

graphic representation of my feelings of anger

Just in the interest of trying to save myself the aggravation of having to fuss and fight with the manufacturer I ran the auto channel finder. And low and behold, I now have beautiful, crystal clear reception. Our basic VHF channels are 2, 5, 7, 9, 11. After I ran the auto channel finder, I now have Channel 5-1, 2 and 3 with three different broadcasts; Channel 7-1, 2 and 3 with two different broadcasts; Channel 9-1 and 2 with two different broadcasts; and, my favorite, Channel 11-1, 2, 3 and 4 with four different broadcasts. One of the Channel 11 channels is called Create TV. It shows all my favorite gardening and cooking and educational how-to shows. It’s public TV’s answer to HGTV, but it’s free.

So, what was the problem? Why did I see Bozo during the readiness test? Well, in my search to find the answer, I stumbled across a How Stuff Works article that I found very informative. They had one particular section that settled an argument I had going with a friend of mine. He said that you needed cable or the converter box even if you had a HDTV set, I said you didn’t.

This is an excerpt from the How Stuff Works article specifically about having just an antenna connected to your television:”Once you’ve picked up your set and installed it in your home, you’ll need to get a signal. To get a signal, you can use:

Photo courtesy Consumer Guide Products
With an antenna, you can get
digital television for free. This
Zenith model works best for
UHF analog and DTV signals.

  • An antenna – Depending on your location relative to the stations you want to watch, a set of rabbit ears might do, but you might need a rooftop or attic antenna. You can buy an antenna that’s specially made for digital signals, but any reliable VHF/UHF antenna will work.”

The only thing I have on my TV is a $10 set of rabbit ears and I’m picking up channels I didn’t know existed. So, there you go. I get to say nah-nah-ni-nah-nah. Told you so.

If you’ve got an analog TV but have cable or satellite, you’re good to go…but there might be a price. I’m a fine print reader, and I’ve seen some companies say they’ll deliver the digital signal but charge you an extra fee of $10 per month, $120 a year. I’m not sure what the fee covers, but if it’s to loan you a converter box, use the $40 coupon issued by the government to offset the price of your own converter box and save a few dollars. Even if you have to pay full price for a converter … like I will because I lost my converter coupons … you’ll still save over the long run.

Oh, yeah. We’re not the only cable-free folks. In Chicago, there are 300,000 households who watch free TV exclusively. So, use those coupons, go grab a converter box and discover something new.



  1. November 15, 2008 at 9:57 am

    You are so lucky! We depend on satellite reception, because six month of the year we live where the only free stations are one each ABC, CBS, and NBC. Neither FOX nor PBS have a strong enough signal. The other six months, in AZ, a small community antenna provides us with one viewable channel and two very snowy ones. I just hate being dependent upon DISH and the monthly price I have to pay, especially since I usually do just watch the network stations and CNN, HGTV and occasionally one or two others. If Mr. H weren’t such a sports nut, I would make the free stations do, but he couldn’t survive without his sports channels.

  2. gardengoodies said,

    November 15, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Growing up in the city you take a lot of things for granted, but everything has a trade-off. I don’t like the fact that the houses are so close to each other and the lots are so small. Something in between would be nice…country charm and city convenience.

    I was really surprised at the digital channels out there (obviuosly). It’s a good thing there aren’t any die-hard sports fans in the house insisting on cable.

  3. Melissa said,

    November 16, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blogs. I currently am going through a rough divorce and am constantly looking for inspirational things to do or read and your blog is just fantastic!!! Cheryl thank you for brightening my day and I hope you continue to blog and avoid bozo at all cost 🙂

  4. gardengoodies said,

    November 16, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    I think Bozo is a thing of the past now.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your divorce. I know it must be terribly painful for you. Taking care of plants has been therapeutic for me, I might help take your mind off your problems.

    Good luck

  5. sinfonian2 said,

    November 30, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    I’ve got a house full of analog TVs, but pay $50 a month for what I consider to be basic cable. With a stay-at-home family it’s a must. I don’t watch much TV, so if they do decide to charge me extra for no good reason in a few months, I guess I’ll just save $50 a month and drop the TV all together. It would cost me thousands to upgrade all the TVs in the house, well 3, but that’s a lot. Thank goodness I’m not on any contract.

  6. gardengoodies said,

    November 30, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    Hi, Sinfonian:

    It’s good to hear from you. I don’t think I posted on your blog, but congratulations on your article in Garden Girl’s ezine/newsletter. It was good reading.

    You do know that you can get those $40 converter box coupons from the government (two free per household). The one time I planned ahead and did something early I had to go and mess it up by letting mine expire. And, no, they don’t reissue them…I checked.

    Just in case you don’t have yours, here’s where you can sign up for them:

    It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with all the cable companies.

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