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The transition to HDTV, on the other hand, was accompanied by increasingly affordable thin flat-screen panels that returned room space to every purchaser even while dramatically increasing the size of the picture.So, from the consumer's point of view, there was more incentive to change to a HDTV set than to switch to color.
But viewers with older TV sets and no cable or satellite connection must buy special converter boxes to continue receiving most over-the-air channels after the switch.
The government is offering coupons to help viewers pay for the boxes, but many people are still confused.
And some stations may have reduced coverage with digital signals.
But the market also provides needed balance—if patent holders try to set licensing fees too high, their standard faces industry-wide rejection. Because the FCC regulates broadcast TV, it has the power to mandate a particular TV standard.
It chose a standard developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) for use in cable boxes and “cable-ready” TVs that defines how the device tunes to each channel. This has proved too much of a temptation for abuse.
Digital television, which also is broadcast through the air, occupies about 25 percent less space on the spectrum than analog -- and offers more services."The digital signal is more concise," said Megan Pollack, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Electronics Association.