DTV 411

Reading Brian Winston’s discussion of HDTV in Technologies of Seeing tonight, I was reminded of a bizarrely fascinating infomercial on the planned transition to digital TV that aired on WRAL in Raleigh last night (there’s a short preview here). While it’s not clearly portrayed in the preview, the infomercial was structured around a cranky-grandfather type who played analogue TV (and who appears not to have touched a hairbrush in ten years) and a younger, cooler grandson who played the digital TV.

The infomercial does seem pretty helpful in spelling out exactly what viewers will need to receive a TV signal after February 17, 2009 (many of my students were convinced that you would need an HDTV, not merely a TV that can receive a digital signal), but obviously what’s interesting about the short program is how it works to convince us that we need digital or high-definition TV. It’s not surprising to see the arguments that HD is beneficial to consumers, but what does seem interesting is how much the program seems targeted towards male viewers, especially with the emphasis on the use of HD to watch sports, but also in terms of how tropes of age and infirmity seem to be driving negative perceptions of analogue.

Update: Here’s a Raleigh News-Observer article on DTV 411, which will apparently be broadcast a few more times in the weeks and months ahead (and was, in fact, broadcast simultaneously by most NC stations). This CBC article reports that the show was produced by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters. And here is the official DTV 411 website.

Update 2: Just thought I’d add that the analogue TV and the digital TV are placed next to each other against a white screen, much like the now famous Apple ads, in a sense using an almost identical rhetoric to depict digital as an improvement over analogue (and, equally significant, showing the degree to which Apple has been so successful in branding itself).

Update 3: Just thought I’d let readers know that now you can see the video for yourself on YouTube.  Props to WRAL for putting the video online so that it would be more widely available.


  1. Elana Levine Said,

    April 20, 2008 @ 9:44 pm

    Any chance you recorded that Digital TV infomercial, Chuck? Sounds fascinating and the preview clip is really interesting, as well. If you’ve got it, I’d love to get a copy.

  2. Chuck Said,

    April 20, 2008 @ 9:52 pm

    I didn’t realize it was on until five minutes in. I’ll keep an eye out–and may even contact the station–to see if it airs again, in which case I’ll definitely record it. The preview clip doesn’t do the program justice, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

  3. James Benedict Said,

    April 21, 2008 @ 4:38 am

    I googled “DTV 411” to see what I could find, and ended up here.
    My name is James Benedict. I played “Digital” in the program.
    If you’d like, I can pass your info along and see what it would take to get an
    educational copy for you. my email is


  4. Chuck Said,

    April 21, 2008 @ 7:31 am

    Thanks, James. I’ve sent you an email.

  5. The Chutry Experiment » DTV PSAs Said,

    January 12, 2009 @ 10:17 pm

    […] an email tip, I was finally able to track down a local infomercial I mentioned back in April that focused on the upcoming digital transition.  The infomercial, broadcast periodically on […]

  6. The Chutry Experiment » DTV OMG Said,

    January 31, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

    […] there was quite a bit of information out there–this DTV infomercial played in the Raleigh-Durham area–the conversion process has often been poorly explained, […]

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