Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Procrasti-Nation: I want my…I want my…I want my DTV

You’ve seen the ads and messages scrolling on your still-functioning TV screens for a year. Analog television is going away. The transition to digital has actually been in the works since 1996. On February 17th, some television stations will stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and only broadcast in digital. It was supposed to be all television stations but thanks to the DTV Delay Act – that’s right, an act of Congress passed 13 days before the deadline was reached from the last DTV Act of Congress – our government catered to the procrastinators and extended the deadline (again), this time to June 12th.

Broadcast television is a service that doesn’t charge you a dime to watch programming that is broadcast over the air to your home. It’s all paid for by advertising – mostly annoying advertising, but free. Even HD is broadcast over the air from your local affiliate for free. You just need a properly equipped TV.

If you don’t subscribe to cable, FiOS or satellite, and you haven’t bought a new TV since the first Bush administration, and you only get your stories the old-fashioned way, with a rooftop aerial antenna or rabbit ears and tin foil (you probably also don’t realize foil has been made with aluminum for decades), you’re going to see snow on lots of channels until you get an analog-to-digital converter box available from a gazillion different local and online retailers for $50 to $80, and that’s before applying a $40 coupon that’s now on back order because laissez-faire people like you never ordered one (you’re eligible for two) from, or you didn’t use it before it expired. [Apparently when I get really sarcastic, my run-ons run on even more.]

Here are two sites that should be able to answer all of your questions:
DTV Answers

Citing the economy for a reason to extend the deadline for people to prepare is ludicrous. If people have procrastinated this long, adding a few months in an economy spiraling downward to allow them to save up $50 or finally order a coupon changes nothing. They still won’t be ready. Wait until their shit stops working – then, they’ll be motivated.

What does this mean to all of the local broadcasters? Lots of confusion, unnecessary expenses and more red tape. Think about it from their perspective. They have analog equipment that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars that they are replacing. They stopped ordering new parts to maintain this older equipment once they were given the thumbs up to completely dump it on Tuesday. Last week, they were told "Wait a'll need it for another four months...maybe." And who says it won’t be extended again?

I was really hoping analog, digital and satellite radio stations across this apathetic land of ours would unite on the day of the transition and broadcast Orson Welles’ classic radio drama War of the Worlds, just to mess with folks who deserve some messing. But now that prank is vapor because there is no single transition day.

So legislators have really messed things up again, but why should we be surprised? These are the same people who decided the converter coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed. Perhaps 90 days after the actual transition occurred would have been a little smarter.

By the way, my digital HDTV (which required 24 interest-free payments well before the transition) is stunning. I really don’t know what you’re waiting for!


Lulubelle B said...

Hey! Some of us luddites were on top of the coupon thing and still got screwed. I sent for my coupon when they first became available. Unfortunately, the month they were delivered was the same month my genius letter-carrier decided I'd moved and left no forwarding address.I'd done neither. My coupon and other mail was returned-to-sender-address-unknown. Once I figured out what had happened, I called the DTV-coupon people. SOL. No do-overs. No coupon. And yes, I did get a converter box and hooked it up on the 13th. :-P

Mike B said...

Well said, Mr. M, well said. While it is a shame that some folks tried to get their coupons and did not, and it is a shame that many people out in the 'fringe' areas may lose all of their TV, the time to complain about it has long since passed. The people we elected thought up the beginnings of this plan .. 12+ years ago (yes, really, the "Telecommunications Act of 1996"). Even I, a complete and total techo-nerd, didn't know about DTV until around 2002. My mother, the complete opposite of techno-nerd, first asked me about it in 2003. The information has definately been out there for a very very long time, certainly long enough to act (i.e. complain). I'm not bashing anyone that got screwed over in this deal, not at all, but there are actually quite a few of us (from what I read, "most") that have been ready for quite some time now and are very disappointed with the concessions made. Did everyone know that very few markets were allowed to go completely analog dark? It's called the 'Night-Light' program. Stations in most markets agreed to broadcast local news and EAS-type stuff, at *their own* cost, on their old analog channels for a while. That was supposed to give the stragglers the time they needed without cutting them off completely. Let's face it, other than local news and EAS, everything else about the broadcast TV system is just entertainment. DVD players won't stop working, the libraries aren't going to burn down, there were other ways to spend one's evening until a converter box could be purchased. And hey -- just wait until they decide to switch everything to H.264 from MPEG-2 and all the tuners/converters bought today stop working!

Mike said...

I appreciate your comments, my friends!

And my bashing is all about the procrastination. I could have ranted about people getting coupons in the first place.

Television is a convenience, even for receiving information. In my opinion, a battery-powered radio is your best medium device in the event of an actual emergency, especially if the power and/or cable is out.