Edward Markey, the current Chair of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, agrees with in-coming President Barack Obama’s call to change the DTV switch over date. Markey, Obama and several Senators agree. The feeling is that the switch over is just too big of a risk to ‘millions of Americans’. The fear is that after February 17, those ‘millions of Americans’ will be without Oprah or public information.
This assertion that ‘millions of Americans’ do not know about or are unclear about the switch over and that it is not going to go well. There are those in the media who agree. John Dvorak, PC Magazine columnist and podcaster, has said this many times. He believes it will be a total disaster. I’m not convinced.
I live in the Richmond, Virginia market. The broadcasters here have all converted to digital. Every one them has been broadcasting, seemingly all damn day, a crawler about the switch over (at least one of them insists on switching the nice high def digital video to poor low def digital…c’mon channel 8, get it right for once. And stop pointing at the damn screen when you read the news too.) How ANYONE can not know about this is a mystery to me. Richmond is 52nd highest ranked television market in the nation. If our seven stations are broadcasting this crawler, numerous slides and 30 or 60 second PSA’s, I’m sure that real stations in real markets are doing more.
I think the better question is how many of those viewers even care? The Richmond area cable TV penetration rate is something like 85%. Of the remaining 15%, how many of them actually WATCH television or have already purchased a converter box? Are they going to WANT a converter box? Does it matter? Probably. Is it enough to change the date? No.
The only people who are truly going to have problems are those in fringe viewing areas. The digital signals do not travel as far and are far more ‘delicate’ than the analog signals. I can remember, many years ago, trying to see how many out of town signals I could watch on my 13 inch Motorola television. It was one of the last mass-produced tube TV’s. I could watch Norfolk, Washington, DC and even some stations from northern North Carolina if the weather was just right. This is impossible today. If you live more then thirty miles from the transmitter, you may not get a picture or you will get one that breaks up. The FCC has considered this issue and has issued several policies to govern this. One of them is similar to the cell phone concept where a broadcaster can set up repeater like stations. But they must do so evenly, so it could get expensive. Also, low power stations or current analog repeater stations can remain analog. This is to serve rural areas and also to keep costs down for the low power stations.
I am going to be mean and nasty now. For the relatively small number (I certainly don’t think it is ‘millions’) of people who may be left with zero coverage due to their own inaction, I have no sympathy. If you’ve been inundated with the message, and you CHOOSE to do nothing, then that is YOUR problem. Not mine. Not Sony’s. Not the local TV stations. Yes, there will be a few who could have done something but could not because of where they live, I sympathize. But, then again, they COULD probably get satellite (if they don’t have it already.)
Financial situation is not much of an excuse either. The government hand out (the coupons) has been in place for a year. Retailers AND the government have let the public know about it. If you did not apply, it may be too late now as the program is low on funds. If you kept putting it off, that is your fault and not a reason for this to be delayed.
Look, this change has been coming for well over a decade. That EVERYONE involved did what they could to prolong the agony is inexcusable. To now say-AFTER all of the publicity-‘oh, there may be a few who will be left out and we should post pone it’ is just ill conceived and does not make any sense. So what if you did post pone it after all that has been said? Come time for the change, people won’t believe it since you cried wolf already. Some damn politician will make the same statement and have it prolonged again. Where does it stop?
We’ve waited far too long already. Just pull the damn plug. NOW.