Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jan. 7: Delay Digital TV?

By Sylvia Gurinsky

There's new proof that maybe this mandatory conversion to being able to see Brian Williams' deviated septum more clearly isn't such a good idea.

Nothing against NBC News anchor Williams, who is a true professional. The real gripe is about digital television, and the almost complete turn-off of analog television signals scheduled to take place next month. This country isn't ready.

The latest proof: The federal government has apparently run out of money for its digital converter program. That's the one in which analog television owners can apply for a $40 or so coupon for a converter box so they can see digital broadcasts. For the time being, anyone who applies for such a coupon will be put on a waiting list.

It does no good to say that television stations have been warning people about this for almost a year. Americans are nothing if not last-minute. In a bad economy, they're certainly not going to run out and get a digital television or satellite or cable (two things that would also work on analog TVs).

Come Feb. 17, millions of Americans could be shut out of watching television. That may not be such a bad thing these days when it comes to network prime-time viewing, but it could be very bad when it comes to important news and public affairs.

It gets worse. The Federal Communications Commission still has not completely addressed what will happen in the event of power outages from blizzards, hurricanes, etc., except to say there are more expensive, battery-operated converters. Gee, thanks for telling us, FCC.

Do we need any more proof that the complete conversion to digital needs a delay?

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