While the government is busy congratulating itself on the progress of the transition to Digital Television (DTV), the GAO report on it points out how ineffective our government is at what it does.
The report, issued in April, states how the transition is going well, and gives those who only skim the reading thinking that all is going according to plan.
The report shows how many stations are already broadcasting the digital signal, and how many will be doing so soon. What is there, under a thin veil, is that the ‘facts’ are being distorted. Most of you are saying, “This is the government, what’s new about that?” You would be right.
The total facts – ooh, a new term, I think I’ll trademark it, and maybe license it to Fox News! – are that the report only speaks of the 66% of station licensees in the nation who bothered to respond to the inquiry. So when the term ‘vast majority’ is used in speaking of stations already broadcasting a digital signal, it really means those stations that the GAO is aware of. Suddenly it seems as though this might be an area where the FCC could do some good – this is their bailiwick.
Part of the ‘transition’ that is not being spoken about is the fact that not all stations will be forced to discontinue analog transmission in February 2009. That was a bit of a shock to some that I spoke to, but this is one of those ‘dirty little secrets’ the government is so fond of keeping. Many stations that are classified as ‘low power’ will not be forced to make the changeover, which, if you’ve been reading the news, should make the case for Best Buy completely.
Best Buy, and 6 other large retailers were hit a few weeks back with large fines for continuing to sell analog televisions. Now, I’m sure the government will push the fact that the point of the fines was the sign stating the television would be useless after February 2009 without some external help. The ‘low power’ exemption will make the point very murky, as even in areas where no low power station exists, it can be argued that sets might be purchased for usage in those low power areas. This is simply another area where, if it was so very important to go to digital television, the transition should have been 100%.
The way it currently reads is similar to what I’ve stated before – the government wanted to shift around some frequency allocations, so it could resell the space and make money – this is fact, as it was part of the ‘Debt Reduction Act of 2005′. Anyone who doubts the real reasons for the imposed switch to digital television should simply look more closely at the evidence. By the way, this was a pet project of John McCain, as he wanted to have some way to pay for the outrageous debt that was caused by the war games in Iraq. Also, to ensure that the force was made, Darth Cheney had to make an emergency exit, stage left, to return from the Middle East, to break a deadlock – this almost did not pass.
Back again to the GAO report – there are several stations across the country who think the transition will be so smooth as to not do any transmission in digital format before the 17th of February in 2009. Somehow these stations believe that the change will be so effortless that no problems will occur. Good luck to them.
Another problem with the upcoming transition is the problem of those little boxes. The nifty little boxes that are going to allow those nasty old analog televisions to continue to serve many – well, it has been predicted that they will be purposely shorted in supply, to force purchase of brand new digital television sets. You did not think any differently did you? After all, it is the television producers that are making the nifty little boxes. Would you, as a purveyor of equipment, not rather sell a $500 television over a $75 dollar add-on tuner? (and let us not be coy about who really pays for those $40 certificates…)
The winners in this, if you can call them that – they are still paying for the cost of transition – are those who have cable or satellite in their homes. No sharp pains of television withdrawal will occur next February, and these same people don’t have to shop for the last set top box available on February 16, similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s problems in ‘Jingle All the Way’.
[tags] GAO, DTV, February 17 2009, transition, $40 certificates, FCC [/tags]