June 12, 2009 is the current date for the analog to digital television switch over in the United States. I say current because I think the government may interfere yet again. Call it a hunch.
The FCC has announced new rules to govern the switch over. Among the new rules is one that says that full power stations must disclose, publicly, the fact that they will not reach as many viewers as they did using the analog signals. They must do this if they lose two percent or more of their viewers. They must also disclose that they are moving from VHF to UHF if they were a VHF station. This is something that I don’t think many people realize. Commercial television is vacating the VHF spectrum entirely. What once was thought to be the wasteland of television-and the kiss of death-is now the exclusive home to the same medium. IF, that is, this transition really happens. I’m starting to get skeptical. Maybe I’ve listened to Dvorak too much.
Another aspect of the transition that is really suspect are the converter boxes. The government is giving everyone who wants them, two forty dollar (US) coupons to use toward the purchase of the converter boxes. Guess how much these things cost? Right..$45 and up. They are priced just high enough to where you still have to fork over some cash. Look, these things should not cost any more than thirty dollars. There just isn’t anything to them. Most of these things are bare bones tuners. They generally only have composite or s-video out. They almost never have any special features. They are NOT worth more than thirty dollars. Period. I’m betting that once the coupon program is over, you’ll see these things for twenty dollars. Just watch.
No matter what the final date will be, it would be advantageous of you to apply for those coupons. They are, supposedly, easier to get now. I don’t know how that could be, I got mine nearly a year ago now. It was brain dead simple to get them. I really did not need them either, but I did use one to get a converter box for my mother. Get them while you can.
At the very least, the converter boxes can make a fair TV look pretty good. These little boxes, overpriced or not, do a nice job with presenting the high-def digital signals look really nice on that old analog set. The difference is striking. My mother loves hers.
Let’s just hope the government stays out of it now. Let the stations do what they need to do. People will figure it all out. And pretty quickly, too. When they go to watch Judge Judy and see snow, they’ll get it pretty quick.