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Is your tube ready? Digital TV transition take effect today, June 12

Television airways won't be the same starting today, Friday.

Digital TV has arrived.

All of the nation's full-power TV stations are required to switch to digital-only signals as of June 12.

Many TV viewers in the Douglas County area, however, won't notice the change.

If you subscribe to cable TV, such as Charter Communications, or a satellite service, you don't have to do anything. Your TV won't be affected.

If you watch UHF channels through the low-powered Selective TV system, not much will change.

Selective TV received permission to convert the new digital signal back to analog at its tower so it will provide the same 19 channels as before.

Selective TV will also continue to offer the local ABC affiliate, KSAX-TV of Alexandria, on UHF channel 14.

In six months or so, Selective TV plans to try broadcasting a digital channel but it won't affect the existing system, said Selective TV President Jim Borgrud. "It would be a mirror of one we're already broadcasting in low power," he said.

The biggest change affects those with older, analog TV sets who want to view channels that aren't available through Selective TV, such as KCCO-TV, the local CBS affiliate.

If that's you, you'll need to do one of three things:

•Buy a converter box for your existing TV set.

If you don't, all you'll see on your screen is a series of black and white dots or snow. The converter box will allow the analog TVs to display the digital broadcast - but not in full digital quality.

Mel Morse, owner of Digital First in Alexandria, recommends buying a box with an analog bypass. You can get a box without it but the wiring is more confusing, he said.

Converter boxes, which were once scarce because of high demand, are now readily available at retailers throughout the area. They typically cost between $40 and $60. Consumers may also still apply for a government coupon to be reimbursed for some of the cost. More information about the coupon is available at

If you've already purchased a converter box and think you're ready for the switch, think again.

You'll have to set the box to rescan the channels today so it will be able to locate the digital TV signals.

KSAX planned to make the switch to digital just after midnight last night; KCCO will make the transition later this evening.

Both KSAX and KCCO have been operating a digital transmitter on a temporary system that has a very limited range. Starting today, the signal will be much improved and have a better range, according to Ed Smith, station manager.

KSAX will have staff available to help viewers with any questions or problems they have with the transition on both Friday and Saturday, according to Smith. The phone number is (320) 763-5729. More information is also available on the station's website, Viewers may also get answers by filling out a form on the website.

KCCO has more information about the transition on the website,

In addition, representatives from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be available to answer questions at a digital TV clinic at the Douglas County Library on Saturday, June 13, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Even if you buy a converter box, you may still have to make some adjustments to receive the digital signal if it's weak in your area, Morse said.

You may have to reposition your outside antenna (which, along with rabbit ears and bow-tie antennas, will still work for receiving digital signals). He recommends positioning antennas toward the Westport area.

Digital TV reception can be affected by terrain, trees, buildings, the weather, damaged equipment, as well as antenna type, location, and orientation.

Moving your antenna away from other objects and structures, or placing it higher, can often improve reception.

You may also have to buy another antenna to pull in the signal.

The good news, Morse said, is that the old fuzzy reception days are gone. With digital, your TV will either pull in a clear picture or it won't get anything.

•Purchase a digital TV, or a set with a built-in digital tuner.

Again, it may take a properly positioned antenna to get the signal. And again, you will have to rescan the channels today, Friday.

Those with digital tuners or boxes should easily pick up local channels, KSAX and KCCO, and depending on their location and signal strength, may also pull in KVRR (the FOX affiliate in Fargo) and four public television channels out of Appleton, Morse said.

Those living in the northern part of the area, from Miltona to Parkers Prairie, should be able to pick up four public TV digital channels out of Brainerd, he added.

In some instances, the digital signals will be transmitted in high-definition, Morse said, which will create an even sharper picture for TV sets that have that capability.

•Subscribe to a cable, satellite or other pay TV service.