There are a number of compelling arguments for both radio and television stations to go digital, including a reduction in total bandwidth, improved audio and visual clarity, and the ability to broadcast more programming within an assigned channel. Many television stations have already installed digital broadcasting equipment, years ahead of the FCC's required switch-over in 2009. For radio stations, the switch from analog to digital is a little more complicated, and the FCC's ruling does not actually apply to radio transmissions.
Television stations will have little choice but to go digital by 2009. This switch-over will not affect subscribers to cable or satellite television programming services, most of which have been using digital broadcast signals for years. Those consumers who receive their television signals exclusively through "rabbit ear" antennas will be most affected by the change. The current analog television signals beamed through the air like radio signals are not the same as the Os and 1s broadcast in digital systems. Only a special converter will be able to translate binary code digital signals into a viewable image on older analog television sets.
The same does not necessarily hold true for radio broadcasts, however. Currently, a number of radio stations already transmit a digital signal which can be received by normal radios. The main reason for a radio station to go digital is not because of a federal edict to do so, but to compete with the alternative satellite radio services such as DogStar and Sirius. When a radio station decides to go digital, the station's owner must agree to invest in an expensive digital broadcast system. Since the FCC's digital switch-over ruling only applies to television broadcasts, many radio stations have been reluctant to make such an investment until it becomes more feasible financially.
While the FCC's mandate will guarantee that television stations will go digital by 2009, the same cannot be said for radio stations. The decision to switch to an all-digital system is still up to individual station owners, and many of them are waiting to see how much of their market share has been lost to satellite radio services before committing to such a significant investment in equipment and promotion.