Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Digital TV switchover is postponed

It has passed the Senate and the House will probably do the same...so hold off on throwing that old TV by the roadside.

"Digital TV Switchover Delay Gathers Steam in Congress"


John C Abell

January 27th, 2009


The Senate has voted to delay for four months the switch to digital TV meant to occur in a mere three weeks, giving President Barack Obama the national breather he sought and setting up a House vote which could occur as early as Tuesday.

Putting off the switch may cause mass confusion, but it will also allow lawmakers to take a last stab at ensuring that a surprisingly large number of analog TV stragglers don't wake up in 21 days to a snowstorm on every channel of their sets instead of "Regis and Kelly," "Lost," and "American Idol."

Broadcasters are dead-set against any delay, with an essentially 'enough is enough' position. Putting off D(igital)-Day would be confusing, what with all those PSAs running on TV advising us that it's just about here. And then there is the small matter of what the switch is supposed to accomplish: freeing up spectrum for use by wireless companies and public safety agencies.

But even though it has been three years in the making, the end of analog television scheduled to happen on Feb. 17 has somehow caught as many as 6.5 million households off guard. While homes that receive programming via cable or dish companies need to do nothing, those who still watch TV using rabbit ears need a converter box to see anything when the switch happens.

With so many homes not ready -- even if the fault is entirely their own -- allowing the digital switchover to occur as planned is thought to be politically unacceptable, and Obama's request last week that Congress delay the deadline they set back in 2005 has resonated.

And the fault isn't entirely that of the viewing public: a government program that subsidized the purchase of a necessary converter box ran out of money during the home stretch, prompting then president-elect's call for a suspension.

"With coupons unavailable, support and education insufficient, and the most vulnerable Americans exposed, I urge you to consider a change to the legislatively-mandated analog cutoff date," wrote John Podesta, as co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team.

The action now moves to the House Commerce Committee, where Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif) has vowed to bring up the Senate bill up for a floor vote on Tuesday.

And finally...

Paula Kerger, public television president expressed her opinion.

"PBS chief pushes for digital conversion action"

Waiting list for those seeking converter box coupons 'inexcusable,' she says

January 7th, 2009

Associated Press

Public television president Paula Kerger says she's disheartened that the government has run out of money to help TV viewers buy converter boxes for the looming transition to digital conversion.

PBS President and Chief Executive Officer Kerger called upon Congress and the Commerce Department to fix the situation as soon as possible. The federal coupon program helps consumers buy the boxes that will allow TV sets to continue getting over the-air broadcasts.

She called it "inexcusable" the people seeking the coupons are being put on a waiting list.

And then this regarding how the delay would affect PBS's budget...

"Digital transition delay would cost PBS $22M"


David Bauder

January 27th, 2009

Associated Press

Delaying the upcoming digital TV transition for four months would cost public broadcasters $22 million, the PBS system chief estimated on Monday.

Paula Kerger, president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting System, said she hopes lawmakers keep that in mind as they consider legislation to delay the switch from Feb. 17 to June 12.

The stations will face increased power charges to maintain over-the-air broadcast signals, she said. Many have leases for signal transmitters that were due to expire on the date of the switch over and will have to make new arrangements, she said.

"This is such a tough situation for our stations because they have just gone through a process where they have raised the money to go through this transition," she said.

The Obama administration has sought the delay because the government program to provide coupons for converter boxes needs more money. The boxes are needed for people without cable or satellite TV to continue receiving TV signals after the conversion date. The latest estimate is that more than 6.5 million households are not prepared for the switch over.

The National Association of Broadcasters has not taken a position on extending the deadline. The TV stations don't want to suddenly alienate and lose viewers, but they've also sunk money into preparing for the Feb. 17 transition.

Kerger said that PBS is not supporting either side, but he doesn't want PBS' hardships lost among potential hardships faced by viewers.

"At the end of the day, our interest is public service and we want to make sure that people don't go without television," she said.

There's a possibility that TV networks would be allowed to choose whether to make the switch over on Feb. 17 or delay it, in which case Kerger said it's likely that PBS would allow its individual stations to choose for themselves.

In lobbying for government help to the system, Kerger noted that much of the costs for the digital transition have been paid through fundraising, which in some cases has made less money available for programming.

Junk televisions and recycling

No comments: