Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TV changes

This will be a short post due to the press of events; I'll likely revisit this topic in the future.

It's no secret that people are disgusted with Congress, mainly, I think because with all the problems we have right now, these solons have essentially done nothing. Health care? Not a big enough problem to solve, I guess. Education? No Child Left Behind's got that covered, so we're going to take a pass on doing anything else. Even Iraq has been neglected, despite the bold words of Nancy Pelosi when she took over as Speaker of the House.

But they have accomplished something, which is to mandate this switch to digital television in February. It was put off a number of times because of concerns about making the change, but now it's coming, like it or not. I'm sure we've all seen the endless number of public service spots alerting us to this, but in actual practice, this seems like a pretty poorly thought-out program.

My experience: I received a converter box a few days ago, hooked it up, and there are stations that just don't come in. After plumbing the depths of the Internet, I've found that one major station plans to move to a different frequency when they make the switch, so there's no real way to know if it will come in on February 18. (I'll leave aside for now the odd nature of these $40 government coupons, which have basically guaranteed that the price of the boxes won't drop below $40 - more profit for the box makers).

Got a VCR? Use it fully, taping one show while watching another? Wait until you see how that needs to be hooked up, and you'll still lose functionality.

15% of all people in the U.S. rely on over-the-air television. Each of those people must now presumably become hardware testers, and, as I have already pointed out, the test can't really be completed when some stations haven't cut over to their final configurations yet. Of course, those tend to be clustered in the demographics of the elderly and the poor, so there isn't a whole lot of political clout there. (And, of course, testing is irrelevant since the change is coming whether the test succeeds or fails.)

I know that this is being billed as a necessity because the government wants to sell off the bandwidth for oodles of bucks, but this seems just as much a giveaway to the cable providers and satellite companies. I realize that the kind of folks who choose to stay over-the-air or can't afford cable don't matter too much, but it seems odd to compel them to either go through the challenge of buying and installing new equipment, or pay money they may not have to keep something they already have. I feel for the older people who are going to have some big-time problems in three months.

[I'll leave this for another day, but the same kind of indifference is being shown by such bodies as the NCAA, given their willingness to sell the rights to the football bowl games to ESPN. Again, we're talking about 15% of the populace, not so small a number. But these millions of people will have a lot more time come New Year's Day 2011. At least they can console themselves that head coaches will command higher salaries.]

2 comments:

Greg said...

Androcass: So long as you don't live in the Loop, reception in the Chicago area should be much better than the country as a whole. However, digital TV also has some different requirements for antennas - go to antennaweb.org and see not just what kind of antenna you'll need but also how you need to orient it for best reception.

But the bigger problem is that you're not using a TiVo! Get thee to an electronics store and buy a TiVo now. The HDTiVo receives digital TV stations and will put you in a good position for whenever you purchase an HDTV later.

In the words of former FCC chairman Michael Powell: TiVo is God's machine!

Greg said...

Androcass: So long as you don't live in the Loop, reception in the Chicago area should be much better than the country as a whole. However, digital TV also has some different requirements for antennas - go to antennaweb.org and see not just what kind of antenna you'll need but also how you need to orient it for best reception.

But the bigger problem is that you're not using a TiVo! Get thee to an electronics store and buy a TiVo now. The HDTiVo receives digital TV stations and will put you in a good position for whenever you purchase an HDTV later.

In the words of former FCC chairman Michael Powell: TiVo is God's machine!

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