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1/22/2009 3:02 PM  RssIcon

Politicians are arguing over keeping the Feb. 17 DTV deadline or moving it to June 12, when indeed they should be figuring out how to make it Feb. 17 through June 12. Stations ready to shut down can do so. Those that need a bit more time can wait. How tough is that?

Details are not a strong point of Congressional lawmaking. Take the DTV converter-box coupon program, for example. It was Congress that decided coupons would expire 90 days after date of issue. The reason had to do with fraud prevention. That is correct. Politicians do not trust us. Consequently, there’s more than $560 million tied up in dead plastic coupons across the country. The program is broke, and more than 2.5 million people are now on a coupon waiting list.

The very same folks who brought us this fine coupon imbroglio are now determining the Zero Hour of the DTV transition. Many people familiar with the whole idea have wondered long and hard why the entire country must transition at the same time. It makes no sense for the same reason snowshoes make no sense in San Diego. Each of the nation’s 210 TV markets is distinctly different. Los Angeles is a sprawling area of single-family homes covered by mountain-top transmitters. New York is concentrated clutch of high-rises covered by transmissions from a skyscraper. Dawson County, Nebraska is a sparsely populated flatland served by translators.

Several stations have already transitioned, demonstrating that a market-to-market shutdown over a four-month period is feasible. Hawaiian stations went all-digital with minimal chaos, though adjacent market coordination is clearly not an issue there. Wilmington, N.C. stations shut down months ago. WTVX-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., ended analog transmissions Dec. 1. KBTX-TV in College Station, Texas shut down this week.

Not every station has the resources to maintain dual operations. An extra few thousand in power bills can mean someone’s job. A single job in this economy is worth defending. Shifting the DTV deadline to avoid political fall-out is sheer narcissism.

And there will be fall-out, whether the deadline is Feb. 17, June 12, or at all points in between. You can’t please all the people and so forth. There will be people who lose TV reception no matter what, which is unfortunate. The DTV transition didn’t have to occur, but that die was cast long before now.

By Nielsen’s latest estimate, around 6.5 million households would lose TV reception if all stations transitioned today. A month ago, the figure was 7.8 million, meaning 1.3 million households have prepared in that period. Factoring in a last-minute rush, it’s safe to say that around 4 million households would lose TV if the Feb. 17 deadline were held.

The foundered converter-coupon program may be a factor, but it’s not entirely to blame, and neither is a shortage of converter boxes. Radio Shacks around the country have converters in stock.

Steve at the Shack in Fond du Lac, Wis., said his store is selling several converters a day. Vincent in Sapulpa, Okla., said the franchise there is selling four or five converters a day, and about half are purchased with coupons. Similar traffic was reported at Radio Shacks in Gardenia, Calif.; Sydney, Nebr.; and the Asheville, N.C., market, where Nielsen pegs the rate of unreadiness at about 6.7 percent. Matt, who worked at one of four Radio Shacks in the area, said his store stocked up for a last-minute rush.

“We just got a big shipment… about 20 or so,” he said. We usually have about five on hand.”

Creating a four-month shutdown window gives communities greater control over how to handle this final phase of the DTV transition. Perhaps it’s time for those affected by the transition to have a say in it.

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7 comment(s) so far...


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DTV Deadline: The Middle Way

There is not a doubt in my mind that the entire transition to digital television is the result of political influence. They make it sound a lot simpler than it actially is. The converter box (an issue in itself) is only half the problem. In addition to purchasing and installing the box, there is the problem with reception. With analog tv, when the signal is a bit weak, the picture is slightly degraded. With digital tv, when the signal is even slightly weak, the picture pixilates, and the sound is disrupted. This makes slightly weak channels useless. This system is being forced on us by people who have no concept of those who cannot afford pay television. The whole program is totally unfair. Of course the news just denied any type of posponement. Politics as usual.

By z47tv on   1/28/2009 12:28 PM
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DTV Deadline: The Middle Way

Deborah McAdams proposal is the best one that any one has written yet. Especially for any station who may be having to deal with having tower crews working in winter weather, the original Dec. 06 and Feb. 09 dates certainly were not chosen with safe working conditions in mind. This country should have been able to phase in the densely populated east on a different time frame than the sparsely populated areas between Nebraska and Nevada. Considering the fact that none of the digital tvs were even worth buying until about 2007 due to their inability to deal with any multipath, and also the fact of antenna aiming used to have to be ultra precise without any type of automated tuning considered by the manufacturers, it is truly amazing that this transition has come as far as it has.

By z47tv on   1/23/2009 12:28 PM
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DTV Deadline: The Middle Way

You think you have it bad in the U.S.! You ought to be living in Canada! Most of the stations we receive here are broadcast from the United States, so we will also be affected by the transition you speak of, on the February 17th deadline. Unfortunately though, we Canadians don't have a national program in effect to help us out. We don't have the option of requesting a coupon that would help with the cost of purchasing a converter box. In fact, Canadian stores aren't even selling the converter boxes yet. I have walked into several electronic stores and departments looking for information, only to be told that the transition won't be affecting Canadians until sometime down the road (as if that's any comfort!). What they fail to realize is that the majority of television stations, such as NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox just to name a few, are American. They certainly won't be making an exception for us Canadians simply because our own national government lacks forsight. It's unbelievable how unprepared we all are for this DTV thing to happen. And to think that it is going to occur in a little over three weeks from now!

By z47tv on   1/24/2009 7:00 PM
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DTV Deadline: The Middle Way

Being close to the US border and watch many US stations we invested in Converter box. We definitely enjoyed the clarity of the new TV viewing. Had to put up an additional UHF antenna but that took all of 20 mins. In Canada the boxes are selling 100-130 dollars, In the US we picked our RCA converter from Walmart $50. Even with the exchange we were better off. I don't feel sorry for those have not purchased their box yet. This program has been more then 4 years in the making. Hopefully they don't keep postponing the transition

By z47tv on   2/5/2009 2:42 PM
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DTV Deadline: The Middle Way

Really this DTV transition is much ado about nothing. Most people nowadays already have either cable TV or satellite TV and so they ALREADY have *digital* boxes installed. This affects a very small percentage of the American television viewing public. Basically people who are still using rabbit ears in the 21st. century.

By z47tv on   5/16/2009 12:01 PM
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DTV Deadline: The Middle Way

I'm in Kingston, Ontario - converters here are $90-100 when they can be found (bestbuy.ca and homehardware.ca list them, although they may be special-order items) and, even with the converter, the signals clearly don't travel as far as they did on analogue low-VHF. Most local stations here are Watertown, New York - the 177th largest metropolis in America. There is no NBC in Watertown. In analogue, we could try Syracuse - it would be a weak fringe signal and barely watchable, but it had a complete set of networks. Utica NY also turned to Syracuse for networks missing locally (in their case, CBS). In digital, Syracuse is all-UHF and no longer receivable at these distances except on the most intermittent and unpredictable of conditions. Those who live in Watertown NY will see the same problems as the rest of the 1000 islands region, with the minor differences being that their city isn't being used as a dumping ground for already-obsolete analogue TV's (still being lawfully sold new on the Canadian side with no consumer warnings) and they have this lovely bankrupt coupon programme. Pity no one is even talking about using the delay to buy time to fix the signal itself. Bye bye NBC, 1950-2009.

By z47tv on   1/28/2009 1:23 AM
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DTV Deadline: The Middle Way

Canadians also need the converters to receive U.S.A. DTV signals after Feb. 17. I cannot locate any supplier here in Canada (Including Wal-mart) who has any to sell. Why are we being left out of the picture here?

By z47tv on   1/24/2009 7:58 PM

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