UPDATE: Friday’s LA Times has more on this story….
Which “dog poo” policy left behind by the Bush Adminstration will give the incoming Obama Administration the biggest short-term hit? War? Economy? Terrorism? Maybe.
If I had to bet, I’d put my money on the federal government’s bungling conversion to Digital Television (DTV) broadcasts less than a month after Obama’s inauguration. In typical Bush Administration fashion, they managed to craft a plan that combines the worst qualities of Big Government and Big Business, and has resulted in billions of dollars wasted, and a public that’s going to have a nasty surprise when they try to watch television on Feburary 17th.
President Elect Obama has wisely asked Congress to extend the deadline to try and put a bandage on this wound, but Congress, in typical fashion, never seem to feel the need to act on anything that would beneft, you know, us (but they sure got it in gear to hand over billions to the banking industry, which has proceeded to sit on our money).
On paper this made some sense: DTV converter boxes, which you’ll need to continue to receive over the air TV, tend to cost between $50-$75. Give everyone a $40 coupon, and you cut the price to an average of $20. People go online (!), get a coupon, and use it within a 3 month window (otherwise it expires). People can go to any retailer and buy a box, and plug it into their TV.
For someone like me, who is aware of these things, it worked fine. I can now get more channels and I don’t pay a monthly fee to the villains of Comcast or AT&T. However, for a lot of folks, especially those who aren’t online or haven’t read up on the details of the program, it hasn’t gone as well. Cable TV of course is happy to tell you all will be well if you just buy cable TV – and make it seem like you MUST buy cable to watch television.
Recent reports indicate that most people are at best confused as to what is happening with DTV (thanks in part to deceptive ads for cable and satellite service). The program to subsidize DTV boxes is running out of money, thanks to both poor accounting procedures, and the fact that people are picking up the coupons to buy a DTV box, but aren’t using them on time. Now, the feds have a growing waiting list right at the time when the program needs to gear up for the final rush.
It’s pretty clear what is going to happen on Februrary 17th – a large number of people are going to realize they can’t watch TV anymore and they’re going to take it out on President Obama and Congress, even though it was the outgoing administration that came up with this hybrid policy of FAIL. Worse, the federales will have failed the people on one of its most basic of duties – managing the public airwaves for the public good.
It is in the national interest to have broadcast services that do not require hundreds of dollars in monthly “fees”, and to have broadcast services that can operate in an emergency. Not everyone wants or can afford pricey cable or satellite tv, and some of us just don’t like ’em, period.
By inventing a new way to loot the public good for the benefit of the few, the Bush crew is laughing all the way to the bank, and it’s at your expense.
PS: Here’s a short and easy list of what to do, or not do, as the case may be for TV, per many requests:
-If you already have cable TV, you don’t need to do anything, just keep paying Comcast the bill.
-If you have purchased a TV with a tuner (be it a standard TV or HDTV) in the last few years, it most likely has a digital TV tuner built in. Check the manual and see if it has an “ATSC” tuner built in. (Be aware that many HDTV sets are really just glorified monitors, with NO tuner at all!)
-Also note – you don’t need an expensive High Definition TV to watch digital television. Your normal tv can see the picture (with a converter or with a digital tuner built in) – just not at as high a resolution as that pricey HD one. Just as you could watch color broadcasts on a black and white tv, and so on.
-If you have an older TV, you’ll need a DTV converter box, which attaches to the back of the old TV. You can find them at most electronics stores, like Radio Shack.
If you can get your hands on a $40 coupon from the federal government, it should cost you around $20. They’re not too hard to set up (it’s like setting up a video game console), and they are all pretty much the same. I got one from Zenith and it works fine.
The various acronyms and the like get confusing (i.e. DTV vs. HDTV), but just remember – you do not need to buy a High Definition TV to watch Digital TV. You can watch DTV on any old tv you can hook up that converter box to. And if you have cable, you need not do anything but keep on paying the bill!
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