Can You Receive Digital Broadcasts on a Digital TV Without Box?

by George N. Root III

Cable television companies advertise their full line-up of digital channels frequently. To the average consumer, it may seem as if you need a special cable television box, or a special converter box for a standard antenna to be able to receive your broadcasts in full-digital quality. The truth is that your television already may be equipped to receive full digital television transmissions even if you do not have cable and even if you do not have a converter box.

Digital Switch

According to, the federal government's information website regarding digital television, all television broadcasters switched to full digital broadcasts from analog as of June 12, 2009. One of the reasons for switching from analog to digital is that some of the emergency broadcast frequencies being used by fire departments, police departments and emergency rescue companies were interfered with by analog television channels. Now with digital television in full effect, the emergency authorities can communicate better with each other on a full-time basis.

Built-in Digital

According to "Consumer Reports" magazine, many people can receive digital television channels without needing a special antenna or cable box. The federal government has implemented a series of laws regarding television manufacturing since 2005 that have mandated that certain kinds of televisions come equipped to receive digital programming over-the-air without the need for special equipment. Any 35-inch or larger television made since July 2005 is digitally equipped. Since March 2006, all television sets 25-inches and larger have been made with digital-receiving equipment installed, and since March 2008 all television sets sold in the United States come equipped to handle digital programming. If your television meets any of these criteria, then your set is ready to receive digital programming without special equipment. If you do not have cable, a simple antenna can help improve your over-the-air digital reception.

Older Televisions

If you own a television that is not high-definition (HD) compatible or digitally ready, then you need a converter box to receive digital programming. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), if you have an antenna that works for both VHF and UHF channels, then you do not need a new antenna to work with that converter box. In order to receive digital programming, your antenna needs to work on all channels from channel 2 through channel 51. The FCC warns that some antennas marketed as HD or digital antennas do not work very well in the lower VHF channels and will not give you the results you want. Any antenna that works in VHF and UHF can be teamed up with a digital converter to give you clear digital television.


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About the Author

George N. Root III began writing professionally in 1985. His publishing credits include a weekly column in the "Lockport Union Sun and Journal" along with the "Spectrum," the "Niagara Falls Gazette," "Tonawanda News," "Watertown Daily News" and the "Buffalo News." Root has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the State University of New York, Buffalo.

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