Not by a long shot. That date refers only to full-power analog broadcast television stations, who will have to turn off their analog transmitters on that date and broadcast only on the newly-assigned digital channels. Most stations are already broadcasting on their new digital channel, they just haven't stopped broadcasting on their old analog channel yet.
By contrast, your cable company is not required to convert to digital by that date, so if you get your TV via cable, you won't have to change anything - at least not in the near future.
Also, Low Power TV transmitters can remain analog indefinitely (the FCC has not yet set a date to force a conversion to digital) so if you receive your KMEG and KPTH signals via a translator, you won't have to change for a while. (At some point we will likely change those translators to digital just to keep up with the industry, or if the FCC sets a deadline for doing so.)
Further, your old consumer electronics equipment such as your VCR and your DVD player will still be putting out analog video signals.
As far as your TV is concerned, the channels will stay nearly the same. If you are used to watching analog KMEG on channel 14, you will simply watch KMEG on channel 14.1 and if you watch analog KPTH on channel 44, you will simply tune in channel 44.1 for the same programming. The actual frequencies that the information is transmitted on will change (14.1 will physically be on channel 39 and 44.1 will be on channel 49) but these new digital systems are configured to "fool" your TV into thinking that they are on the old familiar channel instead.
We find that the new digital signals actually reach a little farther than the old analog signals did. Also, if you get the signal, there won't be any snow in the picture. The only thing you might experience if you live on the extreme fringes of the coverage area is occasional dropouts. In other words, the signal might be there one minute and completely gone the next, or experience moment of "pixelization." If that is the case, you might be able to improve your reception by purchasing a better antenna system.
The simple answer is that any antenna that worked for analog will also work for digital. In reality, however, that may not quite be the case. Here's why...
In the Sioux City market, many of the old channels were VHF, such as Channel 4 and Channel 9. Channel 14, on the other hand, was a UHF channel, but fairly low on the UHF band, so you might have been able to pick it up with a VHF antenna. Using a VHF antenna would not have worked as well for KPTH, Channel 44, however, and its picture would perhaps have been snowy if that was the case.
Many newer antennas were designed for both VHF and UHF, so there is a good possibility that the antenna you are using will continue to work in the new era. (In the world of indoor antennas, for instance, a VHF "rabbit ear" antenna has one or two straight extendable antennas, while one designed for UHF stations has a circle-shaped antenna. Many manufacturers incorporate both kinds into the same unit.)
In the digital broadcast world (as far as the Sioux City market is concerned,) all of the channels will be UHF - even Channel 4 and Channel 9. As a result, you will need a good UHF antenna. After February 17, 2009, you will no longer need your VHF antenna.
If you continue to use a VHF antenna, receiving KPTH will continue to be a problem for you, as it is physically broadcast on Channel 49, which is the highest frequency of any channel in the area. Because of this, trying to pick it up with an old VHF antenna will not work. Another important note is that any problems you might have with your antenna system (broken elements, not aimed properly, weathered antenna wire, corroded connections, etc) will tend to first show up when you try to pick up KPTH's digital channel.
The answer to that is complicated, and I'm sure there isn't one single reason I could give you.
Originally there was a fear that our consumer electronics industry was falling behind the Asian countries that we compete with. Once the ball got rolling, however, lots of other reasons piled onto the wagon. There was a desire to better utilize the new digital technology that was developing. The government wanted to auction off some of the unused TV channel frequencies to help its budget. There is the ability to have a higher quality TV signal - such as High Definition, Surround Sound, subchannels (such as our own My44.2, which broadcasts MyNetworkTV and America One and several regional sports programs.)
Actually, the federal government is trying to assist lower-income citizens by making coupons available for discounted prices on converter boxes, so that your old TV will be able to display the new digital signals, even though it isn't a digital TV. (Go to www.dtv2009.gov on the Internet, or call 888-388-2009 for more information.)
It's hard to say.
Dish Network and DirecTV are implementing local carriage in order of market size. The Sioux City market is size number 143, so the process involves these companies making enough profit in order to afford to put more satellites in space, which will have more channels and be able to work their way down the list. While they like to imply that this will happen soon, I wouldn't hold my breath.
In the case of smaller cable companies, it just depends on their ability to build out their plants with newer digital technology.
The answer to that is simple. Use an antenna.
We love the fact that cable companies and satellite companies carry our signals, but they are unfortunately not required to keep our HD signal in its original pristine condition when they pass it along to you. In fact, in many cases they "throw away" over 90% of the signal quality so that they can fit many channels into one channel, and make room for more and more channels.
If you do a side-by-side comparison of the HD that we provide via your antenna with the HD signal that another company charges you for, you won't ever go back to watching our channel anywhere else - at least not on purpose. The HD picture that we put on our broadcast channels is breathtaking - and it also allows you to take advantage of things like Surround Sound, subchannels, and other similar advanced features that your provider might not be able to offer.
Also, we are confident that the Closed Captioning on our channel has a better chance of reaching your TV than it will on the compressed version that another provider might offer.
Obviously, in the antenna world, height is everything. If you get your antenna high enough, you could conceivably get our signal from nearly anywhere in the area. In practical application, though, we realize that this isn't always possible.
If at all possible, however, the antenna should be mounted on your roof, with as high of an extension as is practical. We highly recommend that you employ the services of a professional antenna installer, both for the antenna and its installation. Many high-end consumer electronics stores either employ someone who does this work, or can recommend someone. I'm sure they will be happy to provide this service even if you didn't buy your TV from them. The investment you make in a purchasing a good antenna and in protecting your safety by having a professional install it should provide years of enjoyment.
We do recommend, however, that you have your outdoor antenna system checked for problems every seven to ten years.