Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hold Onto Those Rabbit Ears ...

Image credit: Wikipedia

You may remember this hard-hitting article from a few days ago, in which I hinted that there might be a delay in the implementation of fully digital TV broadcasts in the U.S. Stand by for another hint, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times:

If you're still using old-fashioned rabbit ears to watch television, you may be in luck for a few more months. The mandate to switch from old-school analog to new-school digital over-the-air TV is likely to be postponed from Feb. 17 to June 12, if a Senate bill passed Monday makes it through the House, which is scheduled to vote this morning.

Answers about the digital TV transition

As the article then goes on to observe, in some parts of the country this change has already happened, but in many more it has yet to be implemented completely. Part of the reason for the delay is that the voucher program for people wanting to obtain digital converter boxes for their old analog TVs is yet another thing the Bush Administration couldn't keep up with:

[Federal Communications (FCC)] Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein called for a delay to give the government more time to get "boots on the ground" to help with the transition.

At least $200 million has been spent in recent years to explain to TV viewers how they need to prepare, but one key element of the federal government's transition plans hit a bottleneck in recent months.

The FCC ran out of money in recent weeks for the $40 coupons to help people buy converters for their analog TVs.

Digital TV Switch Could Be Delayed By Vote

Maybe someone should have bought some advertising explaining that the FCC should be ready for folks who got around to asking at the last minute, or after the economy finally dropped through the floor. Nowadays, that $40 could come in handy.

For those who may have missed all those commercials, the U.S. is about to end the use of the very high frequency (VHF) band analog TV signals that we've been using since the beginning of broadcast TV. They're being replaced by digital TV signals that are in the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band. Basically, if your antenna can pick up UHF stations, you'll probably be able to pick up the new signals. The problem is that in order to use them with a TV set that can't interpret those digital signals, those signals will have to be converted to the old analog format. That's where the converter box comes in. Most of this is explained at the TV transition website of the FCC, by the way. You can also apply for your voucher online there, should you choose. The website also explains:

Congress created the TV Converter Box Coupon Program for households wishing to keep using their analog TV sets after February 17, 2009. The Program allows U.S. households to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40, that can be applied toward the cost of eligible converter boxes.

DTV Transition And The Coupon Program

More accurately, they would do that, but they ran out of money. I guess that campaign to protect us from wardrobe malfunctions and the use of profanity on TV was just taking on a life of its own. Who could have predicted that pointless crusades would entail so many legal costs?

As a matter of public policy, I think delaying this until people have been able to get a converter box, or just not stopping analog broadcasts are the best options here. So many people obtain information from television, particularly during emergencies and bad weather, that it just makes sense to get as many people on board as possible.

For whatever it's worth, I hope that Congress passes this bill.


Dana Hunter said...

If only the converter box could come with a conversion from "stupid pundit babble" to "incisive, informative political discourse."

Cujo359 said...

Or "cheap, 'reality' programming" to "intelligent entertainment".

One Fly said...

As bad as most TV is people need access to it and this bill does need to be passed.

Now if those who lie with impunity would be punished severely on the program it was said that would be some damn good quality programming for the masses.