Today, the Federal Communications Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency released a two-page fact sheet advising consumers as to what they must do to continue watching television after February 19, 2009, when stations will stop broadcasting an analog signal, and what they can do with their old televisions.

Currently, many over-the-air stations are broadcasting in both analog and digital formats. However, in the middle of February 2009, TV stations will have to broadcast solely a digital signal to free up radio spectrum for public safety communications.

The two agencies highlight three choices consumers have. Consumers may connect their analog televisions to digital-to-analog converter boxes, buy a television that has a digital tuner already built in or subscribe to a paid TV service (such as cable). Such services are not required to switch any of their channels to digital, according to the fact sheet.

Whether one opts to get a digital tuner to extend the life of his or her analog set, or to buy a digital television, the EPA recommends selecting a certified Energy Star product. Converter boxes that are ENERGY STAR-qualified use less energy than conventional converter boxes. "If all of the digital-to-analog converter boxes sold in the U.S. met the ENERGY STAR specification, we would save 823 million kilowatt-hours every year," the two agencies noted in the fact sheet. A list of ENERGY STAR qualified models can be found at (select Digital-to-Analog Converter Boxes).

If one decides to get a new television set, the question arises "What do I do with the old one?" The two agencies suggest recycling the old set and note that, because of the cessation of analog broadcasts, many charities will not take analog TVs. Recycling TVs recovers valuable materials from the circuit boards, metal wiring, leaded glass, and plastics. To recycle your old television, call your local household hazardous waste collection and recycling program to find out whether they will be sponsoring an upcoming event to recycle TVs and other electronics.

A study conducted in April by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) concluded that the transition to digital television will not have a significant impact on the environment. According to the study, households receiving broadcast signals only over-the-air (OTA) expect to remove fewer than 15 million televisions from their homes through 2010, ninety-five percent of which will be sold, donated or recycled. In addition, most OTA-only households expect to buy a digital converter box (48%) and continue using the same TV.

"Consumers are far more likely to recycle, reuse, give away or sell analog TVs than throw them away," said CEA's Senior Director of Market Research Tim Herbert, in a statement accompanying the release of the study. "While some have speculated that millions of TVs would enter the waste stream, this new study suggests that is not the case."