Today *Was* The Day

As you may or may not be aware… quite honestly if you have a) access to a computer and 2) have the ability to use said computer you are probably intelligent enough to have 1) non-antenna access to television or b) are well aware that there is an impending change coming to the airwaves.

Today *was* to be the day that over the air television signals were to cease using their decades old analog broadcasts and start (or in many cases continue) their digital broadcasts. However, Congress and the Obama administration have extended that deadline from February 17th to June 12th.

A quarter of U.S. broadcasters are moving forward with their plans to switch off the analog signals today, and I applaud them. This upcoming change should not be a surprise to anyone who has a TV and actually uses it. The commercial have been on a regular rotation for a year now. It’s been in the print media, and on the radio.

I have no idea how much the government has spent on advertising for this change, but they have spent $1.3 Billion of our tax dollars on $40 coupons for Americans to purchase a converter box. This more or less comes to a pair of coupons for every single household with solely over the air access; and in fact the government has run out of coupons.

So how many people are we talking about? Research estimates that 17.7 percent of Americans live in households with only over the air TV. Nielsen estimates the 5.1 percent of households (5.8 million) are not ready for the switch.

Who are these people? Growing up my family was one of the last families I knew that got cable. For my pre-teen years not only was I the official remote control of the house (and got yelled at on more than one occasion for twisting the channel dial too fast) I was also the designated antenna clip remover. You see, we had an antenna on top of our house, and had lost several TVs due to lightening strikes. So when a storm came through it was my job to crawl behind the TV and un-hook the antenna connection, which looked like a metal clothespin with bit pointy teeth on it. Each half of the clothespin attached to one of the two screws on the back of the TV.

But I digress. If my family (poor and in small town Minnesota) made the jump to cable in 1987, who in 2009 is still getting their TV using an antenna? How can there be over 20 million households still using rabbit ears? And how can you not be ready???

If you happen to be one of those households, the situation is deceivingly simple. If you have a TV and you use an antenna, you need to do something. Although as with anything, there is one mitigating factor, if your TV is relatively new (2005-ish) it may have a digital tuner built in, which means you don’t have to do anything.

The best way to determine whether your TV set has a digital tuner built in is to consult your owner’s manual. If that’s not possible, you may be able to look up information about your TV set on the manufacturer’s website. Or, you can take an up-close look at your TV set. In any case, you’re trying to find out if your set has an input connection labeled “digital input” or “ATSC” (for Advanced Television Systems Committee, which is the DTV format).

But I digress. If 5.1 percent of households haven’t prepared themselves for the loss of analog broadcasts by now shouldn’t we just say “f**k ‘em”? I’m serious here. We as a society need to stop catering to the lowest common denominator. If at this point someone isn’t prepared they either don’t care or no amount of time, media blitzing, or coupons will get those people to change. It’s only when they turn the TV and get nothing but static will they finally act.







3 responses to “Today *Was* The Day”

  1. alex Avatar

    Here’s the question: Is television a right, or is it a privilege? If we as US Citizens have a right to free television broadcasts, and the coupons and/or the program in general aren’t ready, then postponing the cutoff date makes some sense. There are still rural areas of the country where you can’t get cable, and the cost of a satellite package isn’t for everyone. If television is a privilege, what’s to stop a network from deciding not to broadcast over the air at all?

  2. wadE Avatar

    I don’t know if there’s been a court ruling on this, but I believe television is *not* an inalienable right. And to answer your last question… nothing. A network can start and stop broadcasting at will. However, if they do choose to broadcast, the government does put some regulations on them. But that’s a different story.
    However, even if television was a “right”, can we realistically wait until every single person has their converter box purchased, connected, and tested before making the switch? This pandering to the lowest common denomenator in our society is pathetic.

  3. anderswa Avatar

    actually, broadcast television is viewed as a publicly-owned natural resource. broadcasters apply to the FCC for the “rights” to a particular frequency; in turn, they give the FCC the rights to regulate its content. (janet jackson, anyone?) up until reagan, there was a requirement that broadcast tv subscribe to a fairness doctrine that ensured both sides of any controversial issues were represented fairly. (FOX News, anyone?)

    wow, i actually used something i learned in college today. can i go home now?

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