House Fails to Pass Digital TV Deadline Extension

By  |  Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Predicta TVIf you’re reading these words, you’re all set for the end of over-the-air analog TV–you’ve got a reasonably modern TV and/or cable or satellite service. (Actually, some of you seem to be getting your TV over the Internet.) But there are those who aren’t ready for the planned February 17th switchover to digital transmissions–in part, it seems, because of screwups with the discount coupons for converter boxes. That’s why President Obama and other support an extension of analog service to June 12th, and why the Senate passed a bill approving the extension on Monday.

Today, however, the House of Representatives failed to fall in line: It didn’t pass the bill. Unless someone throws a hail-mary pass to extend the deadline through other means–and it sounds like that could still happen–some Americans will turn on their TVs come mid-February and find nothing but static.

I’ve been trying to figure out whether I’m in favor of the delay or not, and I’m still grappling with the issues. Over at ZDNet, my friend Sam Diaz makes a cogent argument in favor of just pulling the trigger on analog and moving on: There’s been tons of advance warning about the switchover, and some folks will fail to be ready even if you delayed the transition to 2019. And a delay would cost the broadcasting industry millions.

But the people who are still receiving analog TV are, almost by definition, the most helpless of TV watchers. They’re technophobes. Or people who watch very little TV but might need it in case of emergency. Or folks so poor that the fact they can’t get a $40 converter coupon is an obstacle.

I keep having these visions of my grandparents fiddling with their little portable TV and wondering why they can’t tune in Lawrence Welk, Gunsmoke, and the CBS Evening News. My grandma and grandpa have been gone a long time, but there are plenty of other grandparents out there, and some of them will be flummoxed by the transition.

Of course, you could make the argument that the best way to get stragglers on board is to deprive them of TV by completing the damn switchover: If analog broadcasts disappear on Feburary 17th, it’ll nudge some folks to head out to RadioShack and buy the coverter boxes they should have known about a long time ago.

Anyhow, I’m going to throw the decision in your lap while I continue to think about it. What’s your take?



5 Comments For This Post

  1. dosequis Says:

    I feel for those who can afford a $40 converter box, but they still won’t be able to afford it after the delay. The helpless will still be helpless in 5 months and in 2019. Some people don’t change until it is forced upon them. My grandparents have a Wii! I think they can find their way through the digital conversion.

  2. tced Says:

    There will always be procrastinators. Too bad for them.
    An extra effort should be made for the truly needy (for the most part poor elderly).
    But get it over with.
    As for the emergency information: There’s this other thing called radio.

  3. WxMan_II Says:

    Let me see here… We’ve been inundated with Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for over a year on TV reminding us unceasingly of the changeover to digital TV (DTV). These same PSAs provided web sites for those of us who are not technophobes, as well as 1-800 phone numbers for those who still believe that the internet is just a fad and will never last. The government offers a $40 discount on nearly all DTV converter boxes, making the converters exceedingly low cost. Millions of consumers heeded the advice and laid out money to purchase the converters. The television broadcast industry invested millions of dollars to upgrade to digital facilities. The end result – we propose an extension so that a handfull of flat-earthers who ignored everthing going on around them will not be deprived of their daily infusion of The View.

    It’s said that no election is without its consequences. This is only ONE facet of things to come. Call it a cradle-to-grave society. I call it survival of the dimmest.

  4. pond Says:

    One caveat: the bill failed to muster the needed 2/3 votes to pass via some sort of expedited vote. There were more than enough votes to pass by a majority, and so all the Dems need to do is bring it up as a regular roll-call vote, and it will pass.

    Reports in the paper claim that such a vote could come as early as next week.

    The Republicans voted it down. Oddly enough, the Senate passed it unanimously, so all the Republican Senators voted for it.

  5. Samuel Says:

    Sure you have people you can give an extention too, and will always have a lame excuse! This isn’t just about poor people but also about the misleading information given to the public. I purchased one of those converter boxes with a coupon, and it works like crap! So I found myself having to purchase another antenna! I live on a fixed income and couldn’t afford to purchase the one that was needed, and it still works like crap!. A lot of major channels I can’t get at all! The public has been mislead in this matter. The antenna is more expensive than the so called free converter box. I think some members in congress needs to forget about their petty differences and consider the American people. Now I have to save money I don’t have and purchase more equipment or cable. That’s what I wish I had been told for the last two years “The truth!”

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