The DTV Debacle
It is going to happen in Elgin. It is going to happen in Tow. It is going to happen in Taylor. It is going to happen in Smithville. It is even going to happen in many parts of Austin.
People are going to wake up Wednesday morning, February 18th, turn on their TVs, and find some their favorite shows and news broadcasts gone. The Washington Post said it succinctly Saturday, “On Tuesday, more than 400 stations [nationwide] are expected to drop their analog television broadcasts. It is not known how many people will lose programming.” [Underlining for emphasis] KEYE TV is one of them.
Locally, KEYE TV (CBS) will drop its analogue signal becoming Austin’s only purely digital station according to a longstanding plan. Public TV station KLRU TV will also axe analogue next month. KXAN/KXAM/KNVA says it will continue broadcasting in both spectrums, but they do not say how long: “We will continue to assist viewers while determining the most appropriate time for our station and viewers to transition to Digital TV.” KTBC TV says it will continue its analogue signal to the new federal cut-off date, June 12. KVUE TV’s web site is counting down to June 12 in milli-seconds—It’s kind of fun watching the clock tick down.
In an earlier post, I posited that all local stations should drop analogue February 17th as planned. It’s been in the works for a decade. TV stations have been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for new digital transmitters while doing their darnedest to educate consumers. To continue in analogue will cost stations $10,000+ per month in electricity during a time of depressed revenues. If all who could flipped the switch, it would put pressure on Congress. It might even be a “stimulus”, pushing people to purchase one of those cool HDTVs if they can afford it.
Why is this happening? Basically, the Bush administration and Congress bungled the job. That’s not a political statement on my part. That is fact. There is a good breakdown of why this is happening in The Washington Post. Here’s a link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/13/AR2009021303504.html
I’ll leave the ugly details to you the reader and the Post or other reports out there. Just “Google” “digital TV conversion.” Some of them say that the delay is a good thing. I disagree.
Congress passed a bill pushing back the conversion date, but the bill did not include funds for more of those $40 coupons help underwrite the cost of conversion boxes. Therefore, even though the official date is pushed back, unless people want to and can afford full price of the conversion boxes, the boxes will still be on the shelf. There is a possibility, however, that the boxes may become hard to find, if the government starts sending coupons again.
Further, folks with limited means or abilities may not be able to hook-up the boxes if they have them. It’s just nuts. There should be a cadre of wire heads working with social-service agencies helping to hook up these people in Elgin, Tow, Taylor, Smithville, and Austin. But, of course, that would take time and money too.
KVUE TV has an excellent site answering lots of DTV questions at http://www.kvue.com/dtv/ and you can watch the cool countdown clock too. KEYE TV’s site, including the “Dr. DTV” blog is pretty good too. Here’s that URL: http://www.keyetv.com/content/entertainment/hd/default.aspx#Scene_1
Just as a reminder: If you have an HDTV, if you’re on cable, or if you have satellite service, you’re golden; you’re OK.
My main frustration lies not with the local TV stations. The TV stations held up part of their bargain. Your government, especially the previous administration, did not. If you are displeased with the way this digital debacle has been handled, say so. Be heard. Write your representatives in Congress. Tell them, if you can’t see them, you won’t vote for them. It might get their attention.
© Jim McNabb, 2009