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 DTV2009.gov, 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:
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 minute...you'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!