Saturday, May 16, 2009

Digital Television Conversion Update

In a move to appease the couch potato lobby and advertising special interests, in January our dear leaders delayed the transition to digital television from February to June 12th of this year.

Back in January, an estimated 6% of television watchers hadn’t digified their television reception. Today, 3% still haven’t made their equipment 'digital ready.' How will our ruling elite deal with this crisis?

In a no-nonsense move to wake up the remaining couch potatoes, the FCC will run a nationwide DTV "soft test" on May 21.

The "end is near," declared Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein at Tuesday's Open Commission meeting…To get a sense of who is or isn't really ready for this apocalypse, the agency has called upon those broadcasters to run a "soft test" of the switch three times on Thursday, May 21... at 7:25am, 12:30pm, and 6:25pm.

They picked those times because you know they are 'prime time.' What?

But don't hover around your rabbit-eared boob tube counting on seeing them at those exact times. The National Association of Broadcasters sent Ars a message saying that it has an "understanding" with the FCC that some stations "may need some flexibility regarding the time of day and length of the test."

So the FCC thinks this test will create an "intermediate tidal wave" and "wake up a lot of people". I have my doubts, but how is the FCC preparing for this Katrina sized groudswell?

4,000 operators will be standing by at 1-888-CALL-FCC to provide online assistance through three eight-hour shifts. A huge chunk of agency staff (180 employees) have been sent off to 49 markets that it has identified as least prepared for the Great Day. The Commission has awarded contracts to a dozen community organizations to set up 400 "walk-in centers" and 12,000 DTV help clinics to show people how to set up those converter boxes. And a slew of free, in-home technical assistance centers are on the way, which the FCC hopes can knock off over 200,000 installations between now and the conclusion of the transition.

Want to take any bets on which 'community organizers' are involved? ACORN anyone?

In addition, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration says it has cleared out that humongous list of 4.2 million people waiting for converter box discount coupons that it accumulated in January after running out of cash (the American Reconstruction and Recovery Act has replenished its coffers to the tune of $650 million).

Well the taxpayers are sure paying a lot so Joe Couch Potato can have his TV pacifier.
Have you kissed a couch potato today?


bobn said...

You do realize that the transition to DTV is being mandated by the Federal government, right? That it's yet one more example of crony-capitalism in full bloom?

OBloodyHell said...

bob, even at that, it's not like there's any big hairy deal for these dimbulbs as it is.

If you haven't switched over, the chances are that you're not a friggin' couch potato. You're someone who happens to own a TV but never uses it. If you're a couch potato, you almost certainly have cable, in which case this isn't a problem. If you don't have cable, perhaps due to living too far away from the services, then you almost certainly have some form of satellite TV. And if you don't have *either* of those then you most likely aren't watching THAT much television.

And as far as it being mandated by the Fed, if you're going to presume they have any business operating the FCC (and I seem to recall that Carl has some special knowledge of this general arena), then mandating the switch is hardly unusual, unreasonable, or unexpected.

And it's not like business doesn't want it, they've wanted it for almost a decade. The only reason THEY hadn't done it prior to this is that the FCC told them they couldn't.This is on the same order as ordering the breakup of Ma Bell -- it's happening because the industry wants it, and probably (reasonably) would have done it a lot sooner if they'd been allowed to. Anyone who hasn't made the switch by this point really isn't one of those people who use TV at all.

Bob Cosmos said...

Bobn -- I will admit this is the first time I have heard the term crony-capitalism. The wikipedia entry for this tells me that it isn't capitalism. Telling is this: "States often said to exhibit crony capitalism include the People's Republic of China; India, especially up to the early 1990s when the manufacturing was strictly controlled by the Central Government, giving rise to the phrase of "Licence Raj"; Indonesia; Mexico; Brazil; Malaysia; Russia; and most other ex-Soviet states. " etc.

If you have noticed, my posts on this subject criticize the government involvement in this mess in the first place.

I believe we are actually on the same wavelength philosophically, oui? Non?

The role of the FCC is to keep the TV stations from interfering with each other, and to have an orderly transition from a frequency management perspective.

Let us not forget that each one of these television stations received the spectrum for FREE and the only revenue the government receives is from taxes on the bottom line.

Bob in LA

Bob Cosmos said...

Bobn --

I said that the only revenue the government receives is from taxes on the bottom line (of the broadcasters), but that is not entirely accurate. In the course of the DTV shuffle, the government took back some spectrum, some of which it auctioned off for about $5B to the telcos.

As a side benefit, the move to digital made the US the first nation to have a completely digital TV service, even High Definition HD for all, and freed up spectrum for police and fire, among other safety services.

Janna said...

I think they should just go on with the DTV transition. 3% of the population isn't that big. And if karma gets back at them for it, it's not anybody else's fault but theirs.

Imee said...

Hmm. For me, I think the DTV transition is necessary, not for better TV pictures, but for the emergency signals that would be sent faster. It's been years in the making but unfortunately people haven't been too aware of it til only lately.