Television Broadcasting:
Recent history


Television is one thing that Americans seem to have in common.  About 99% of American households have at least one TV set, but that number is beginning to decline thanks to computer-based video-on-demand.  Television is powerful and could have been used as a mostly positive influence in our culture, but it has turned into one of the most destructive forces in our society.

This page covers a few topics that are now completely passé now that the U.S. has made the transition from analog to digital TV broadcasting.



Coupons for digital converter boxes


The cost estimate for this boondoggle started out as a mere $510 million, and of course since the federal government was involved, that was not enough.  The latest estimate is about $1.5 billion.  Will you all please ask yourselves this question:  Where will that money come from?  The government is pretending to do you a favor by giving you a "free" coupon, which is paid for by the money they took out of your paycheck!

Right to digital?  Americans have such an entitlement mentality, they seem to think that every pleasure — e.g., digital television — should be a collective right, meaning a federally funded entitlement.

[The gist of the above article is that the government is considering vouchers to help with the cost of a new digital television set.  Is that the proper role of government?  When unleaded gas was mandated, did the government buy everybody new cars?]

Update:
Households to get coupons for digital TV switch.  Brushing aside congressional suggestions that the nation is ill-prepared for the conversion to digital TV in 2009, the Department of Commerce on Monday [3/12/2007] unveiled its plan to help subsidize the switchover from analog.  In the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) plan, each household can claim two $40 coupons that they then can use toward the purchase of a set-top box that can translate digital signals so television shows can be viewed on analog TVs.

Commerce Department Issues Final Rule To Launch Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program.  Starting Jan. 1, 2008, all U.S. households will be eligible to request up to two $40 coupons to be used toward the purchase of up to two, digital-to-analog converter boxes, while the initial $990 million allocated for the program is available.  If the initial funds are used up, the [Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005] permits funding to increase by $510 million, upon certification to Congress that the initial allocated amount is insufficient to fulfill coupon requests.

Digital killed the TV star.  That extra $510 million is for "over-the-air households" (people who don't have cable or satellite) only.  How do you prove you're an OTA household?  You say you are. ... Anyone else like the odds for fraud/abuse/malfeasance in this program at around 100 percent?

Congress and Digital Television:  Since the days of Ed Sullivan and Milton Berle, television has been broadcast using the same technology and largely over the same frequencies.  That is about to change.

House OKs switch to digital TV.  As a House committee approved legislation Wednesday [10/26/2005] that laid out the nation's mandatory move to digital TV by 2009, consumer groups warned that many Americans would not be able to afford the transition.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill 33-17. … The approved bill sets aside $990 million, which would provide 23 million coupons worth $40 to use toward the cost of a converter.  The first-come, first-serve system would allow households to apply for up to two coupons over the Internet or by mail.  Converters could cost around $60.

The Senate's $3 Billion Subsidy for Aged Television Sets:  Specifically, the legislation provides for the federal government to pick up almost the complete cost of the set-top boxes, which it estimates to cost $50 to $60 apiece.  Consumers would be responsible for only a "co-pay" of $10. … Ultimately, however, subsidies are the wrong thing to do.  There is no federal entitlement to analog television, nor should there be one.

FCC Rules Cablers Must Provide Analog Signals.  [The FCC] says about 35 percent of all "television homes," approximately 40 million households, have analog-only sets and receive only analog signals from their cable companies.  To make sure those analog-only cable subscribers can still watch their local TV stations' broadcasts after the transition to DTV, FCC in September adopted rules requiring cable operators to make local broadcasters' primary video and program-related material viewable by all subscribers.

The Editor says...
Between the time a program leaves the network studio and the time it gets to the consumer's TV, the picture will have been converted from analog to digital and back at least three or four times.  Each conversion takes its toll on the picture quality.  It will be several years before the path from the studio cameras to the consumer is all digital.

Retailers to Sell TV Converter Boxes.  Starting Jan. 1, an estimated 13 million to 21 million households that rely on an antenna to watch TV can contact the government to receive two coupons worth $40 each to buy converter boxes.  The $1.5 billion program — which is enough to fund 33.5 million coupons — ends March 31, 2009.

Digital TV Transition Takes Next Step.  Between January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009, households can request coupons while supplies last in one of four ways. … Coupons expire 90 days after they are mailed, and only one coupon can be used to purchase each coupon-eligible converter box.

Note:  If you would like to use your favorite search engine to find out more, the program is being run by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and is called the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program.

Digital TV shift affects minorities most.  Hispanics are nearly twice as likely as whites to be left without television service following the nationwide transition to digital broadcasting next year, according to a new survey.

64 million dollars worth of coupons so far ...
850,000 Ask Government For TV-Converter Coupons.  More than 850,000 people requested $40 coupons for converter boxes with which old television sets can receive digital signals after the United States abandons analog broadcasts next year.  Each household is entitled to two coupons, bringing the total requested to more than 1.6 million, said Todd Sedmak, a spokesman for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Coupon fund for TV tuners running low.  The Feb. 17 transition from analog to digital television broadcasts looms and as many as 8 million households are still unprepared, but the government program that subsidizes crucial TV converter boxes is about to run out of money.  People who still rely on analog TV sets to pick up over-the-air signals — whether it is through rabbit-ear aerials on TVs or antennas on the roof — will see their screens go dark when the changeover happens.

The Editor says...
(1) If the coupon fund runs out on the day of the transition, isn't that perfect timing?  Why is that a problem?  And (2) analog TVs generally don't "go dark" in the absence of a signal, as the article above suggests.  That's the beauty of analog TV:  If there is a weak signal, at least you can tell it's there, and you can see if your adjustments are helping or hurting.  With digital TV, it's all or nothing.  That's why the average high school dropout is going to encounter a lot of difficulty with the new system.  Allow me to make this bold prediction:  Very few people who use an outdoor antenna (or rabbit ears) will receive all the available TV signals.

FCC Warns Against Delaying Analog Shutoff.  President-elect Barack Obama's transition team asked Congress on Thursday [1/8/2009] to delay the shut-off, citing the Commerce Department's running out of money for coupons that subsidize the cost of converter boxes, which allow analog TVs to receive digital signals.

The Editor interjects...
The people who exercised due diligence got their coupons, and those who waited until the last minute may not.  That's just too bad.  Let them forego a few scratch-off lottery tickets or a carton of cigarettes and buy their converter boxes with their own money.  Or just push the old TV set out to the curb and read a book.

Turmoil Over TV Switch Grows.  Plans to become a digital nation are in disarray just five weeks before television stations are supposed to shut off analog broadcasts.  Consumers do not have quick access to coupons to purchase converter boxes, Congress is toying with postponing the switch, and now a possible way to distribute more coupons may no longer be plausible.

$40 And A Mule.  Congress is giving out cash to help Americans make the switch to digital TV next month.  Is authority for this found in the Constitution's Commerce Clause?  Or can it be located in the Bill of Rights?  Obviously, grounds for this can't be found anywhere in the Constitution.  But that hasn't stopped lawmakers from doling out other people's money on such stuff for a couple of centuries.

Fired Up About the TV.  Would someone please tell me why any of us should pay for our neighbor's digital converter box? ... The United States taxpayer is footing the bill for TV viewers who are either too poor or uneducated or lazy to go down to Best Buy and buy a $40.00 converter box for their TV set.



Editorial comments

I don't recall any public outcry demanding digital television.  (HDTV was apparently cooked up by somebody at the FCC during the Clinton administration, as part of a scheme to sell RF bandwidth to raise money for other government projects.)  Hardly anyone had seen a high-definition TV picture until long after the construction of HDTV stations had begun.

What's going to happen ten years later, after the transition is settled?  With digital television in place, it will be easy to encrypt all TV signals and provide the encryption keys only to those who have paid the TV tax, much like the way television reception is taxed in England.

There is more to this digital television scheme than conservation of RF bandwidth and good pictures of football games.  The federal government's long-term plans for digital TV is, I suspect, about monitoring, taxing and regulating everything you watch.



The Broadcast Flag


The Broadcast Flag:  The FCC's Lockdown of Digital Television.  You [had] until July 2005 to get a DTV tuner card that ignores the broadcast flag.  While this won't help you with cable or satellite TV programming, at least you'll retain your freedom to make digital recordings and copies of network TV programs.

Misleading Term of the Week:  "Broadcast Flag".  Hollywood doesn't need to ask for a true broadcast flag.  The standards for digital television broadcasting already have a place for such a flag.  No government action is needed to allow Hollywood to use a flag to indicate the broadcast status of a program.

Appeals court tosses FCC's broadcast flag rule.  A U.S. appeals court on Friday [5/6/2005] struck down a Federal Communications Commission rule designed to limit people from sending copies of digital television programs over the Internet.

Court yanks down FCC's broadcast flag.  In a stunning victory for hardware makers and television buffs, a federal appeals court has tossed out government rules that would have outlawed many digital TV receivers and tuner cards starting July 1 [2005].

FCC Lets Hollywood Turn Off Your Output Jacks.  Hollywood will soon have the power to remotely disable the analog outputs on your set-top box, under a decision by federal regulators on Friday [5/7/2010] intended to prevent home recording of new movie releases.  The move by the Federal Communications Commission grants cable and satellite providers the power to block consumers from viewing just-released movies in an analog format through a process known as Selectable Output Control.

The Editor says...
Digital television and software-controlled receivers are some of the most powerful tools ever put in the hands of Big Brother.  If the government can turn output jacks on and off, it can also take control of the channel selection and the power switch, just like the telescreens in 1984.



The Transition to Digital TV

Editor's note:
In case you run across this page twenty years from now while doing a little historical research, the original analog-to-digital transition date was February 17, 2009.  That was pushed back to June 12, 2009, and even though every television station issued hundreds of warnings about the transition, thousands of people were unprepared.

TV Stations' Digital Conversion Confuses 700,000.  Nearly 700,000 calls were received by a federal hot line this week from people confused about the nationwide switch from analog to digital TV broadcasts that occurred Friday [6/12/2009].  The Federal Communications Commission said Saturday that about 317,450 calls went into the help line, 1-888-CALL-FCC, on Friday alone, the day analog signals were cut off.

The Hawaiian transition:  While the national DTV transition will be on February 17, 2009, Hawai'i will transition at 12 noon on January 15, 2009.

HD Boycott dot com:  The purpose of this site is to encourage people to not buy the new high definition DVD technologies which seek to greatly reduce or eliminate the concept of fair use and first sale rights.  Don't buy any new HD gear without getting the facts or you might will regret it later.

Pushing Quick Switch To Digital TV.  Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and other industry leaders urged lawmakers Friday [10/14/2005] to speed the transition to digital television in order to free up radio spectrum for wireless broadband services, especially in rural and poor areas.

[Yeah, right.  Bill Gates didn't get rich by selling products in rural and poor areas.]

Nielsen:  Households Not Ready for Digital TV.  "[I]f there is even one TV in a cable/satellite household that is not plugged into the service — for example, it is used to watch DVDs or play video games — Nielsen counts that household as unprepared," [says Megan Pollock of the Consumer Electronics Association].  "For the 86 percent of U.S. households that subscribe to cable or satellite, the DTV transition does not impact their ability to watch TV."

The Editor says...
I think Nielsen also knows — but isn't saying — that about 1.8 percent of American households do not have a television at all.  At least that's what the Statistical Abstract of the United States has been saying for several years.

The citizens of Wales were allowed to vote on the issue before analog TV was turned off.*

Closely related:
You'll Buy It, and You Will Like It.  Most homes have cable or satellite, and little use for a new tuner to receive digital signals via antenna.  The FCC will force them to buy it anyway. … There are 107 million total TV households.  Only twelve percent use TV antennas — the rest have cable and/or satellite reception.

The few people in this country who still use "rabbit ears" don't care about crystal-clear high-definition TV pictures.  Many of them are still watching black-and-white televisions.  They just want the basics.  They didn't ask for digital TV and they aren't going to like it when analog TV is turned off.  (If they spend $1000 for a new TV, they will obviously spend an extra $79 for a good antenna.)  The number of people watching analog TV from an antenna – not cable or satellite – is relatively small, as shown in this next item:

Yes, but that still leaves 13% of 110 million households, which comes out to 14.3 million TV sets that will suddenly stop working.  Many of those useless TV sets will be in the hands of people who will claim they can't afford a new one (even though they can afford cigarettes and beer).  I hope the politicians don't get the idea that the government should provide television sets to everyone who wants them.

House sets digital TV transition for February 2009.  The bill allocates $990 million to $1.5 billion for a subsidy program that would permit those whose TVs still rely on analog broadcasts to request up to two $40 coupons for digital-to-analog converter boxes.

 Free advice:   Analog TV broadcasting will end in February, 2009, a few weeks after the presidential election.  When that day comes, please remember that television is not essential to life, nor is it an inalienable right.  In fact, you'd be better off without a television in your house.  Take the opportunity, when the analog stations are turned off, to give it up once and for all.  Don't waste any more time and money on TV!

Even if the picture is technically flawless, TV content is the big problem.  Television is one of the most destructive forces at work in this country.  If you rely on television "news" coverage, I urge you to turn off your television set and get your information from more reliable sources.  (At least begin to challenge the assumption that everything you hear on television is true.)  If you use television to absorb your spare time and satisfy your hunger for cheap entertainment, you would be much better off with a well-written book.

'Rabbit Ears' Find New Life in HDTV Age.  Local TV channels, broadcast in HD over-the-air, offer superior picture quality over the often-compressed signals sent by cable and satellite TV companies.  And the best part?  Over-the-air HD is free.

The Dawn of Digital TV.  Today more than 1500 broadcast digital-TV stations are on the air.  Nearly the entire U.S. population lives in markets with at least one digital broadcast signal available, and more than 90 percent live in areas with five or more such signals.

Congress and Digital Television:  The digital transition has proceeded at a snail's pace. … Almost no one is watching over-the-air DTV broadcasts.  While close to ten percent of households have digital television sets, the content mostly comes through cable, satellite, and DVDs.  Only two percent of households own TV sets that can receive digital broadcasts.

Spectrum Allocation for Emergency Communications.  Last summer, a newly formed company called Cyren Call — headed by Nextel founder Morgan O'Brien — proposed that 30 megahertz of radio spectrum be reallocated to public safety users. … Under Cyren Call's plan, 30 megahertz of the 60 megahertz planned for auction would instead be given free of charge to a new "Public Safety Broadband Trust."  This trust — apparently to be created by the FCC itself — would represent state, local, and federal public safety users.  In turn, the trust would contract with private sector firms to build and operate an advanced broadband network using this spectrum.

For those of you who don't know, 30 MHz of spectrum space is enough to accommodate five HDTV stations.  Without moving a lot of TV stations to different RF channels, there is not (and never will be) a 30 MHz block of unoccupied spectrum.

Disappearing TV spectrum fetches $20 billion.  A US government auction of the wireless frequencies soon to be given up by television companies as they switch to digital transmissions has raised a record $19.59 billion.  The winners of the valuable spectrum will likely use it for new wireless data services for computers and mobile devices, but the victors' identities have not yet been revealed.  The 700-megahertz ultra high frequency (UHF) spectrum is being given up by television broadcasters as they move to digital from analog signals in early 2009.

Articles like the one above raise a number of questions.  Is the radio spectrum something the FCC owns — something the FCC can sell?  When this concept is widely accepted, will the FCC begin to charge TV stations and other wide-bandwidth users for the rental of spectrum space?  The article says that the new owners "will likely use it for new wireless data services."  Does the FCC sell RF spectrum without knowing exactly what it will be used for?

No TV Left Behind:  There is no federal right to analog television, nor should there be. Viewers have no more right to existing TV technology than they did to vinyl records or Betamax video recorders. Viewers have been on notice of the transition to digital television for more than a decade, and those who prepared for it should not have to subsidize those who did not.

FCC will allow unlicensed devices in analog TV spectrum.  The FCC has just announced the roadmap for giving unlicensed wireless devices access to empty "white spaces" in the current analog TV spectrum.  US spectrum is at a premium (just consider the astronomical fees paid by cell phone providers to grab a chunk of it), and the FCC wants to ensure that space is available for innovative unlicensed technology.

Broadcasters Oppose Google's Plea For White Spaces.  The battle for the white spaces is far from being over, as Google co-founder Larry Page pleaded once more for the Federal Communications Commission to approve the free, unlicensed use of the slices of spectrum in between television channels. ... Over 90 percent of the wireless spectrum in the U.S. is not being used, and Google, together with Microsoft, Dell, Intel, HP and others target just that.

The Editor says...
Nonsense!  The rash pronouncement that "Over 90 percent of the wireless spectrum in the U.S. is not being used" reveals a complete disconnection with reality.  Was it someone from Google who made this statement, or was this the writer's estimate?  In either case, the absurd "90%" assessment would surely come as a great surprise to the FCC.  In the first place, how do you measure 90% of the RF spectrum, which includes unusably-high and -low frequency bands?  Second, a single radio channel may be quiet most of the time (in a given locale), but that doesn't mean there is not a licensed user who is authorized to use that frequency exclusively.  Third, the new digital TV stations are able to operate on adjacent channels only because they are sharply filtered.  Wireless networking appliances operating on TV channels that the users think are vacant would reduce the TV broadcast channels to another CB radio band, with every user shouting down the others.

The DTV transition countdown shows how much time remains until analog television stations are turned off.

UK to start digital TV switchover, but Australia is still in the dark ages.  Politicians ... do know people.  Cut off millions of registered voters from their drug of choice and they'll take it out at the polls.  It's probably no coincidence that the death of analogue broadcasting comes only months after the 2008 US elections, giving politicians almost four years to sort out the mess.

Time to Revisit FCC Set-Top Box Rules.  Verizon and other telephone companies are rushing into the video business.  The two DBS service operators — DirecTV and Dish Network — have done an about-face and are now supporting equipment containing mainly proprietary features.  And Congress finally has set a firm February 2009 date for the transition away from analog to all-digital broadcast television transmission.  With the changed landscape, this is a case crying out for regulatory relief.

HDTVs prompting antennas' comeback.  Rooftop antennas are back in vogue.  Many people are trading up to expensive television sets and hooking them up to old-fashioned antennas that can pull in the digital and high-definition signals of local broadcasters for free.  That's right, free.  You only get the signals of local broadcast stations — ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, etc. — but there's no monthly cable or satellite fee and no need for a set-top box.

FCC chair promotes post-digital TV rule.  Here's the pitch from the cable TV industry:  One way or another, all subscribers will still be able to tune in their favorite shows when broadcasters shift to digital-only transmission in 2009.  Seeking more than a promise, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin wants commissioners to require cable companies to provide that service.

HD enthusiasts crying foul over cable TV's crunched signals.  As cable TV companies pack ever more HD channels into limited bandwidth, some owners of pricey plasma, projector and LCD TVs are complaining that they're not getting the high-def quality they paid for.  They blame the increased signal compression being used to squeeze three digital HD signals into the bandwidth of one analog station.  The problem is viewers want more HD channels at a time when many cable and satellite providers are at the limits of their capacity, said Jim Willcox, a technology editor for Consumer Reports magazine.

Energy-guzzling plasma TVs will be banned in Brussels eco blitz.  The plasma screen television is poised to become the next victim of the battle to curb energy use.  Giant energy-guzzling flatscreens are expected to be banned under legislation due to be agreed by the EU this spring.  Plasma screens have been nicknamed the '4x4s' of the living room because they use up to four times as much electricity and are responsible for up to four times as much carbon dioxide as traditional cathode ray tube sets.

The Editor says...
(1) They only "guzzle" energy because that's exactly the way the owners want to spend their time and money, and (2) carbon dioxide is a plant nutrient, not a pollutant.

State considers ban on big screen TVs.  In their continuing quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, state regulators have uncovered a new villain in the war on global warming:  your big screen TV.  Couch potatoes, beware.  The California Energy Commission is considering a proposal that would ban California retailers from selling all but the most energy-efficient televisions.  Critics say the news standards could take 25 percent of televisions off the market — most of them 40 inches or larger.

Who Should Decide the Size of Your TV?  As part of its effort to combat global warming, California is considering a proposal to regulate big-screen TVs off the market.

California plan would put squeeze on big-screen, flat-panel TVs.  The California Energy Commission is considering a proposal to prohibit retailers in the state from selling all but the most energy-efficient televisions.  A draft report prepared by the state agency's staff warns that without the action, the demand for electricity throughout the state will continue to grow as consumers purchase larger flat-screen televisions to replace their existing analog sets.

State requires TVs to be more energy efficient.  California regulators adopted the nation's first energy-efficiency standards for televisions Wednesday [11/18/2009] in hopes of reducing electricity use at a time when millions of American households are switching to power-hungry, wide-view, flat-screen, high-definition sets.

The Editor says...
Aren't these the same California politicians who want everybody to drive electric cars?  Aren't these the same California politicians who oppose the construction of nuclear power plants?  Aren't these the same California politicians who oppose hydroelectric dams, because they might hurt the fish?*  Instead of restricting consumption, the obvious answer is to increase the supply of electric power.

Say no to the supersized TV, EPA hints.  How big is too big when it comes to TV screen size? How much energy does the U.S. gobble up watching television?  If you ask the Environmental Protection Agency, the answers would be (a) anything over 50 inches and (b) about 4 percent of all household electricity.  "There are about 275 million TVs currently in use in the U.S., consuming over 50 billion kWh of energy each year — or 4 percent of all households' electricity use.

The Editor says...
Obviously, if 4% of America's household electricity goes into television sets, that's the way Americans want to use electricity.  After the juice goes through your electric meter, you have paid for it, and you are free (for now) to use it in any manner you see fit.

California to set TV energy efficiency standards.  The California Energy Commission on Friday [9/18/2009] published a proposal to set efficiency standards for televisions, which are fast becoming one of the biggest energy consumers in homes.  The regulations mandate that retailers carry TVs with 33 percent lower energy consumption ratings starting in 2011, followed by more stringent levels in 2013.

The Editor says...
The people who write laws in California apparently believe that if they legislate the impossible, it will come to pass.

California appears poised to be first to ban power-guzzling big-screen TVs.  The influential lobby group Consumer Electronics Assn. is fighting what appears to be a losing battle to dissuade California regulators from passing the nation's first ban on energy-hungry big-screen televisions.

California considering banning giant TVs.  Arnold Schwarzenegger, the state's governor, has supported controversial proposals by the California's energy commission to impose strict energy consumption limits on TVs with screens that are more than 40 inches wide.  The commission claims that California's estimated 35 million televisions and related gadgets account for about 10 percent of household energy consumption in the state.

Most Americans Favor Big-Screen TVs Over Energy Conservation.  California is expected to implement energy-conserving regulations any day now that manufacturers and retailers say will in effect ban the sale of big-screen TVs in the state.  Other states are likely to follow the Golden State's "green" initiative in the months ahead.  But a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 66% of Americans oppose a law that would effectively ban the sale of big-screen televisions to save energy.  Sixteen percent (16%) favor the idea, and 18% are not sure.

California's New TV Regulations Deserve Booby Prize.  One would think it's a tall order to out-regulate the European Union.  But California government technocrats managed to do so by passing a draconian rule that will outlaw 25 percent of the flat-screen television market in the formerly Golden State — and raise the prices of what's left on the shelves.

FCC Throws Lifeline to Analog Cable-TV Customers.  The Federal Communications Commission approved rules Tuesday night [9/11/2007] that it says will ensure that millions of cable subscribers will still be able to watch broadcast programming after the digital television transition in 2009.  The FCC says approximately 40 million households are analog-only cable subscribers.  Tuesday's ruling will require cable operators to guarantee analog cable customers will receive broadcast channels until February 2012.

Cable Prices Keep Rising, and Customers Keep Paying.  Cable prices have risen 77 percent since 1996, roughly double the rate of inflation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this month.  Cable customers, who typically pay at least $60 a month, watch only a fraction of what they pay for — on average, a mere 13 percent of the 118 channels available to them. And the number of subscribers keeps growing.  The resiliency of cable is all the more remarkable because the Internet was supposed to change all things digital.

Why cable is going to cost you even more.  Your cable bill is going up this year — and next year, and the year after that — with no end in sight.  The average digital cable customer already pays almost $75 a month, according to research firm Centris.

Cutting Cable:  Companies Losing Customers.  Porter McConnell gave up on pay TV last summer after noticing that monthly rates kept creeping up.  Now with no satellite or cable TV, she watches her trusty old TV set with an antenna or she goes online to catch her favorite programs.

The Night The TVs Go Out.  The industry has tried to get the word out, but many consumers still aren't getting the message:  In a year and a half, millions of television screens could go dark.  Not the fancy high-definition TVs or those connected to cable or satellite.  But the 70 million sets relying on rooftop or "rabbit ears" antennas will end up showing nothing but snow.

FCC to warn TV viewers:  'This is only a test'.  Representatives of the Federal Communications Commission are scheduled to visit Chicago on Nov. 20 as part of a nationwide tour to regions that are considered at risk for missing the switch from analog to digital TV signals.  While regulators haven't detailed their itinerary for Chicago, one of the options to test local households' readiness is what's known as a "soft test," or temporarily turning off analog signals.  In a soft test, the signal is shut down for 30 to 60 seconds.

The Editor gets technical...
The article goes on to say that the analog stations will air an announcement for 30 seconds, meaning that they won't actually be "shut down".  It's just a mandatory PSA -- another in a long series of government announcements that have been largely ignored.  If the analog stations did shut down for a minute, who would notice?  Many stations have direct fiber-optic feeds to the local cable TV outlets, so it doesn't matter if the analog station is on the air or not.  All that aside, will the "soft test" take place only on the stations' analog transmitters?  That would require separate feeds to the analog and digital transmitters, which many stations do not have.  Moreover, most TV viewers are conditioned to ignore commercials, and most viewers see this type of announcement as just another commercial.

The other digital-TV transition:  "Like any business, we change our offering from time to time," said Alex Dudley, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable.  "Our customers won't have to do a thing when the over-the-air digital transition occurs in 2009.  But we are also migrating some of our channels to a higher digital tier to make room for new services.  And if customers want to receive those channels, they'll have to rent a box."  Some consumer advocates say that the timing of these channel moves is suspicious considering it coincides with the broadcasters' transition to digital.

FCC fines cable operators over channel changes.  The Federal Communications Commission is fining nine cable TV operators for attempting to thwart its investigation of a practice in which analog channels were transferred to a more expensive digital tier, leaving some customers without access.

Attention, rabbit-ears users, your time is short.  Nearly a quarter of Minnesota households now get TV over the air with antennas, according to Nielsen Online.  The state has the fourth-highest percentage of U.S. homes using just broadcast television, the research firm says.  So with the switch approaching, local stations plan to step up their nagging via their analog transmissions (those already tuning in to the newer digital transmissions won't see the nags).

The Editor says...
The antenna itself — rabbit ears or outdoor antenna — will not become obsolete on February 17.  It is only the analog tuner that won't be of much use.  And even after February, you should still be able to see some low-power TV stations.

Senate blocks digital TV delay.  Senate Republicans on Friday [1/16/2009] blocked a bill that would have delayed next month's nationwide shutdown of analog TV signals until June 12, but Democrats vowed to bring the measure back for a vote next week.  The bill was defeated even after President-elect Barack Obama on Friday urged lawmakers to postpone the Feb. 17 transition amid mounting concerns that too many Americans who rely on analog TV sets to pick up broadcast channels won't be ready.

Senate Nears Deal To Delay Digital TV.  Key senators have reached a compromise on a bill that would delay the nation's switch to all-digital television from next month until June 12.  A vote on the legislation is expected early next week.

Delay in analog TV shutdown presents challenges.  With the clock ticking toward the Feb. 17 deadline for TV broadcasters to shut off their analog signals and go entirely digital, analysts say more than 6.5 million households are not ready.  Now Congress appears poised to postpone the transition to June — but a delay could bring its own problems.

The Editor says...
Allow me to reiterate:  If you lose your ability to watch TV for a while, that might be the best thing that could happen to you.

Digital TV Beckons, but Many Miss the Call.  Vesta Clemmons, who is 77 and lives alone, relies on the battered Zenith television in her tiny apartment here as more than just a lifeline to the outside world. ... [And she was about to be left without free television reception but] Ultimately she received peace of mind from an unlikely source:  Meals on Wheels.  For several months now, drivers and volunteers for the Houston-area program have been delivering and installing digital converter boxes for its clients — as a side dish alongside the baked chicken and stewed peaches that are their usual fare.  Ms. Clemmons's turn came last week.

Senate OKs 4-month delay to digital TV changeover.  The Senate on Monday [1/26/2009] voted unanimously to postpone the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting by four months to June 12 -- setting the stage for Congress to pass the proposal as early as Tuesday.  Monday's Senate vote is a big victory for the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, who have been pushing for a delay amid growing concerns that too many Americans won't be ready for the currently scheduled Feb. 17 changeover.

The Editor says...
The US Congress, to a great extent, is made up of people who can't make up their minds, can't hold themselves to a deadline, don't understand the industries they regulate, and can't resist the slightest pressure from lobbyists whimpering about the underprivileged losing "access."  Television is not vital to everyday life.  If you were too lazy and stupid to get ready for the DTV transition, after all the relentless publicity about the change, you deserve to be left in the digital dust, wondering what happened.

House defeats bill to delay digital TV transition.  Bucking the Obama administration, House Republicans on Wednesday [1/28/2009] defeated a bill to postpone the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting to June 12 — leaving the current Feb. 17 deadline intact for now.  The 258-168 vote failed to clear the two-thirds threshold needed for passage.  It's a victory for the GOP members, who warn that postponing the transition would confuse consumers.

Update:
Senate Once Again Passes Bill to Delay Transition to Digital TV.  For the second time, the Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday night [1/29/2009] to delay the transition to digital television by four months in order to give consumers more time to get ready.

With DTV delay likely, some stations to switch anyway.  Despite a setback in the House of Representatives last week, Congress appears to be set this week to extend the DTV transition to June 12.  Even so, many television stations appear to be sticking to the Feb. 17 deadline for the switch.

More updates:
House approves DTV delay until June.  By a vote of 264 to 158, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to delay the DTV transition deadline until June 12.  The House action effectively ends the efforts by those, mostly Republicans, to maintain the original Feb. 17 DTV transition deadline.

House votes to delay digital TV transition.  The House voted today 264-158 to delay the analog TV shutdown until June 12.  The nation was two weeks away from the original date of Feb. 17 for the digital transition, allowing broadcasters to replace analog TV signals with digital ones.  But the Obama administration and many Democrats asked for the delay, saying millions of people are not ready for the switch.

US analog TV shutdown bolder, riskier than most.  The U.S. has planned for more than a decade to have TV broadcasters turn off their analog signals, yet when the Feb. 17 deadline loomed, it flinched, delaying the mandatory shutdown for four months.  The delay, which causes confusion for TV viewers and havoc for broadcasters, is a symptom of the unique way the U.S. conceived the shutdown:  No other big country has dared to, or plans to, end its analog TV broadcasts all in one go.

25% Of TV Stations Stay With Digital Plans.  More than a quarter of major U.S. TV stations intend to shut down their analog broadcasts on Feb. 17, sticking to the original date despite the wish of the Obama administration that they delay until June.  Congress last week gave TV stations until June 12 to shut down analog broadcasts, hoping to give viewers more time to prepare.  Money has run out for the federal fund that subsidizes converter boxes, and there's a wait list for the coupons.

For millions, digital TV deadline still is now.  The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of 200 advocacy groups, has digital TV assistance centers in seven metropolitan areas — Atlanta, Detroit, San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and St. Paul, Minn. — to answer questions, demonstrate converter boxes and sometimes make house calls.  In San Diego, the ABC, CBS, Fox and CW affiliates plan to end analog broadcasts Tuesday [2/17/2009].

I Want My DTV.  Don't change that channel.  If you've turned on a TV in the past six months, you've probably heard that today, February 17, 2009, is the day that broadcast television is supposed to switch to digital signals from analog.  After the transition, older televisions that are not hooked up to cable, satellite or fiber-optic service won't work.  But here's the rub.  Today [2/17/2009] was the day the big switch was supposed to happen.  It was written into law back in 2005.

DTV Transition Failure Leads Man to Shoot TV.  A man angry about the shut-off of his cable-television service and subsequent inability to convert his analog TV to pick up DTV signals shot his television set Wednesday afternoon, scaring his wife out of the house and holding off a SWAT team in a two-hour standoff.

Some May Lose Out With Digital TV.  Congress thought Americans' free TV service would get better, not disappear, when it first ordered broadcasters to shut down older analog TV signals as of Feb. 17.  Instead, millions of Americans who rely on free, over-the-air TV could lose one or more channels after the extended deadline for the digital switch in June — even if they bought a converter box.

Don't adjust your antenna, adjust your government.  I soon had the box unpacked, the cables plugged in, the channels set and scanned.  I was looking forward to the promised crystal-clear picture on at least four or five channels.  I got a Spanish-language station, but the picture kept freezing or the screen would go black.  Then I would get a no-signal announcement and was advised onscreen to check the antenna connections...

Boo hoo.  Your old TV doesn't work.  Whose fault is that?
Millions Face Blank Screens in TV Switch.  Millions of households will lose television reception next week when about 1,000 broadcasters around the nation shut off their analog signals and complete their conversion to digital programming, federal officials say.

Viewer anger likely with Friday TV signal switch.  The government is bracing for "significant problems" when the U.S. switches to digital TV on Friday, acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps says.  Consumers fiddling with antennas and converter boxes, which must be rescanned post-switch, will account for most problems.  "There're going to be some angry consumers," Copps says.  The switch to digital TV, or DTV, will start at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday.  At that time, 974 full-power stations that cover major markets such as New York and Los Angeles will start shutting down analog signals.  The transition is expected to be done by midnight.

Battery-powered TVs useless this storm season.  Without power for 12 days during Hurricane Ike, Houston secretary Donna Clanton relied on her battery-powered TV for news updates, road closings and notices of flooded intersections.  "Actually seeing what was happening made me feel more connected and a little less isolated," Clanton said.

The Editor says...
It's must be amazing to these people that anyone survived before television came along.



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