BETA PICTORIS – Alien life forms on planets outside our solar system are still unprepared for the switchover from analog to digital television signal for programming originating on Earth.
Since the late 1920s, terrestrial television transmitters have been beaming content out toward space, for the enjoyment of anyone equipped to receive it. For almost all of that time the broadcasts were in VHF and UHF radio bands, but going forward everything will be in digital HD formats that require decoding.
Most earthbound television viewers are ready to accommodate the new digital signal or are in the process of making the change. However, viewers tuning in from planets as close as a few dozen light years away will not even be aware of the coming change for several more years.
“If they’re paying close attention, they will get wise to the coming conversion and make the necessary adjustments,” said Exoplanet Broadcasting expert Cassie Orton. “But if they try to keep using standard VHF and UHF antennas beyond a certain date, they’ll miss out on a lot of programming.”
Earth authorities do not have the resources to notify these extraterrestrial viewers, and no plans are in place to start.
“They’ll just have to sort it out on their own planet,” said Orton, noting also that the gap in programming might amount to potential loss in advertising revenue.
In related news, FM and AM signals provide another outlet to other planets, as well as satellite services if they have subscriptions.