What is Digital Television Radio?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 January 2020
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Digital television radio (DTR) is broadcast over cable and satellite services like Time Warner Cable™, DishTV™ and DirecTV™. The radio broadcasts are accessed by switching the set top box to the proper channel, just like tuning in a standard network station.

There are nice consumer advantages with digital television radio. The broadcasts are clear and flawless, unlike over the air (OTA) analog signals that decay from interference, obstructions, and distance. The digital signal, arriving through the TV, allows the listener to enjoy superior sound quality over car or portable analog radios, particularly when the television is connected to an entertainment center with surround sound capability.

While digital television radio commonly offers an array of local radio stations including talk radio, commercial-free music stations are the main feature of the service. Happily, DTR is included with basic service from most satellite and cable providers. Depending on the provider, a subscriber might enjoy anywhere from 45-100 music stations that cover a wide range of tastes. Each digital television radio station is dedicated to a single genre of music with enough variety to please even the most eclectic listener.


Some examples of digital television radio stations include: soft jazz, jazz, country, R&B, hip-hop, rap, standards, arena rock, classic rock, metal, alternative, soft hits, party favorites, blues and oldies. There are also hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s, and a seasonal station for holidays. If you like listening to music while doing yoga, you might enjoy soundscapes, also nice for setting a mood.

If the set top box from your provider is connected directly to your television (as is the case when there is not an entertainment center setup), the TV must be turned on to listen to digital television radio. You can improve sound quality by connecting external speakers to the audio-out ports on the television, as most built-in television speakers are less robust than reasonably priced external speakers.

If the set-top box is connected to a home entertainment receiver which also receives the cable signal directly, the TV need not be on to enjoy digital television radio. Only the set top box and receiver must be powered up to tune into a station. Nevertheless, some people prefer to have the television on, as it will display interesting details, factoids and anecdotes about the currently playing song and artist.

Digital television radio is a great plus when having parties or get-togethers. The commercial-free format and wide choice of genres also makes it excellent for background music when relaxing around the house, getting chores done, or just taking a break from regular TV.

Eventually analog radios will give way to digital radios, though insiders disagree on when the transition will happen. In the United States, analog television broadcasts will cease 12 June, 2009 (pushed back from the earlier date of February 2009), but analog radio will still be around, so don’t throw away that transistor just yet.


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Post 17

Unfortunately, I have recently learned that because of the technology involved (I don't even pretend to understand it so I can't try to explain it,) if there were a radio that picks up digital signals it would be prohibitively expensive. Sigh.

Post 16


I believe the reason for that has nothing to do with wires or radio apparatus. I think it's because the stations haven't quite finished their switch-over yet and are still (sometimes, and with reduced power) broadcasting in analog. Although, from what I can tell, they're mostly broadcasting how to set up your converter box - which does me no good whatsoever.

Post 15

There are radio's that will pick up TV broadcasts but they are few and far between. I took apart my radio and found that in this certain model there is a switch to change it from TV to Radio. I guess that this was a universal model to be be used in either a Television set or Radio. That is why my truck radio is receiving channel 4 news in the morning the bracket broke that held the radio switch in place and now it is stuck on television. So if you need a radio that will pick up television you will have to look at the actual components inside and see if you have the option to switch back and forth.

Post 14

I haven't found one yet. I thought once the switch was made I could find one, But No.

Post 13

Is there a radio that will pick up digital tv broadcasts?

Post 12

I spoke with a big named car radio installation company and they pretty much laughed at me and told me that it was impossible for that to be happening and now it is getting worse. The radio will cut out and go to TV for a couple of days and then go back to regular radio for a couple of hours and shoot back to TV. None of the wires are loose or have been shorted out. There is just no reasonable explanation for this. Please help.

Post 11

No this is the factory radio from 1992, not even close to digital. It is just the standard radio without a disc or tape player.

Post 10

Danielle304, Do you have a new digital radio in your car or is it just a regular radio?

Post 9

I was driving in my truck and my radio changed to channel 4 news, a television signal. This channel was picked up on every single dial on my radio. My question is, can this be something related to this topic?

Post 8

Yes, and will such a radio pick up where the converter box won't?

Post 7

I think everyone understands that we won't be able to receive the digital signal with an analog Radio. The question is "Has any company made a new digital Radio that will pick up the new digital TV channels?"

Post 6

I'd like to add to paulazmud's question and ask: If there is such a thing as a radio that will pick up digital television will it be able to get signal where the converter box won't?

Post 5

Is there a radio being produced that will pickup the new digital TV signals?

Post 4

If your radio is picking up FTA (free to air) analog signals -- the same ones the roof antenna picks up -- you will not be able to listen to TV on your analog radio once the networks cease broadcasting in analog because there will be nothing for your radio to receive. This is also why people with roof antennas have to get a digital set-top box. The antennas are there for picking up analog signals. There won't be any analog signals. If your radio is an analog radio, you won't be able to listen to TV broadcasts on it... but you will be able to listen to traditional radio because it will continue broadcasting in analog for the foreseeable future, though that too will eventually change.

Post 3

Will I be able to listen to TV on a radio after the switch?

Post 2

Where can I see the answer to paulazmud's question? I use a Sony Walkman SRF-M37V radio to listen when I watch TV to make up for diminished hearing and not disturb others. As I understand it that will no longer work after the switch to all digital. But perhaps my quest for something else to use is moot - the converter box I bought announces weak/no signal, thus no stations, so maybe I won't be able to see/hear *any* kind of TV...

Post 1

Will I be able to listen to TV shows in the new digital TV format on my radio that picks up TV? What kind of radio will I need to do this?

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