I have been noticing  a number of RVer forums and billboards with flaming posts about digital conversion. Some folks are even saying that it will not bother RVers because all campgrounds have Cable TV (this is not true) or that RV TVs are already equipped for this (again, not necessarily true). This is an issue for everyone who has older TVs and those without additional services, such as Cable or Satellite, and does indeed effect many RVers.

What is Digital TV?

Digital TV involves advanced broadcasting technology that will allow broadcasting stations to offer better sound and picture quality, as well as multicasting ability. Multicasting means the bit stream can be split offering more than one channel. That’s a mouthful, but basically it means a broadcaster can offer more channels.

I have an older TV that I refuse to part with (it has a built in DVD player that I love) and I had to purchase a digital converter box as most of the campgrounds we stay at are not located in areas with Cable TV. I currently pick up a San Antonio channel on box channel 5.1. Multicasting has allowed the broadcasters to turn 5.2 into a local weather channel. Another example is I get a local religious channel on 23.1. The following channel 23.2 is a religious children’s channel. After that, channel 23.3 and 23.4 are religious movie and educational channels. Instead of one channel “23”, I get four channels from this broadcaster. The same with the Spanish channels (one for news, one for Soaps, one for movies). Now this is on our regular RV TV antenna, plus my digital converter box. This is not Cable TV! Right now I get twenty-six channels on my TV with the digital converter box. Before I hooked up the digital converter box, I only received four local (analog) channels at this campground!

There are a few different types of Digital TV, but the most common is Standard, Enhanced and High Definition (HDTV). My converter box is just a SDTV (Standard). It’s not the best quality of the bunch, but quite honestly, I can’t tell the difference between my SDTV and our HDTV!

More information on this can be found at http://www.dtv.gov/index.html.

Digital Converter Box and Antennas

For RVers with newer TVs, you don’t have to do anything. Your TV should be ready for digital. Dig out your owner’s manual or flip through your TV menu and see what options you have. Some TVs are simple, some may involve some reading. Our living room TV (that came with the fifth-wheel) is a flat-screen HDTVand is rather intimidating. It has us digging out the manual just to autoscan channels!

If you are like me and dragged your old TV into your RV, then you will need a converter box. This is no different than hooking up a VCR and if you follow the steps in the manual, you should be watching Digital TV in a matter of minutes.

I was amazed at the features my little Magnavox converter has! I now am able to display a TV guide, digital closed caption and a handful of other great options. Since the digital transition is still taking place, some channels are not operating at full strength, so I do have to autoscan for channels every few days. I’ve picked up a couple more since I hooked up the converter. And as you would  every time you move to another campground, you will have to run autoscan to pick up local channels.

Most converters are running $40 to $70. I recently saw a pallet full at Wal-Mart for $29. There is a TV Converter Box Coupon Program, but they have run out of coupons. There is a waiting list and with the delay in the switch to DTV, you may have a chance to obtain one. (Go to https://www.dtv2009.gov/ for more information on this coupon program). Even if you do obtain a $40 coupon, you must use it within ninety days of receiving it and you must pay all taxes on the box. I bought mine in California and with local and state taxes it was  almost $9 (out-of-pocket) for a $40 converter box with the $40 coupon.

You need a converter box for each TV. So if you have two TVs in your RV and both of them are not DTV-ready, you will need two boxes. If you get involved with the coupon program, you are allowed two coupons ($40 for each) and that can help reduce the cost.

If most of the campgrounds you stay at do have Cable TV or SATV, then you may not want to worry about. You can still hookup your TV to a VCR, DVD player or use it for gaming. If you have reliable internet access, you can watch most of your favorite shows online. Several sites, like Hulu ( www.hulu.com ) post TV shows several days after the show’s original airdate. Some networks, like Fox, post them the next day on their own website. I often watch TV (and movies) online and prefer the lack or reduced frequency of commercials!

RV antennas are not the greatest, but again, if you stay at campgrounds outside major areas, you should still be able to pick up major networks. We have been touring Eastern Texas the past three months and have been fortunate to be near larger cities (San Antonio, Austin and Houston) and haven’t had problems picking up digital signals. I still get channels without the converter on, but boy, the picture is so much prettier on digital! Now snow or lines with the digital converter box. I can see Judge Judy as plain as day! 😉

If you are a RVer and have an older TV or are not staying at a campground with Cable TV or SATV, then you will be without TV reception after the digital transition takes place. Hooking up a digital converter box only takes a few minutes and will transform your snowy analog channels into clear digital ones.