Friday, January 23, 2009

Patrick, over at Patrick's Place, had an interesting entry yesterday about the proposal before Congress to delay implementation of Over-the-Air (OTA) digital television broadcasting (DTV). While I am in general agreement with his assessment, to a point, there are elements his entry doesn't address. Read this entry then come back...

The problem for the very poor is different than the problem(s) for the rural customer. As noted in other discussions, many rural and fringe area customers simply were unprepared for the not insignificant expense of installing an external antenna with rotor and signal amplifier in order to receive the distant station(s) they are accustomed to receiving now. Quite frankly, neither am I.

My camp is a case in point. There is no satellite window to the SW due to a thick forest cover and a ridge. Cable is unavailable. No broadband service is available. That leaves me with the choice of obtaining a zoning variance (fat chance) to install a 100 foot tower capable of supporting over 150 lbs of antenna, rotor and cables and then spending some two to ten thousand dollars for the antenna and all the rest, or, do without. In my case, there isn't a choice. I haven't got that kind of money to spend on television that I might watch for five months out of the year for one or two hours in the evening. What with Jay Leno leaving late night TV, that viewing time may be cut by another 5 hours a week (my wife HATES Conan and Dave).

I am sympathetic to broadcasters who must bear the burden of the additional expense(s) of operating analog and digital transmitters. I am also sympathetic to those facing the loss of OTA TV with no possible replacement, for whatever reason. In my case, I'd signed up for the government's discount card to be delivered last February. If you've been following my blog, you know that was a serious mistake - I didn't get back to my domicile until July. By then the card had expired. The expired cards went into the trash and I reapplied, only to be told that the guvmint wouldn't issue new ones. Then they turned around and rescinded the expiration. By then, they were long gone in the landfill -- SOL again. I ended up having to buy a converter box at full price or do with out any OTA TV at home or in my trailer. Suffice it to say, I only bought one box and swap them from the trailer to the house as needed. Watching from bed at night, from the kitchen in the morning or out in the shop will be impossible. Tough luck for the local broadcasters - another customer gone. And forget public television - those cows decided they'd concentrate only on the more populous areas to the south of us - we no longer get their signal. Sorry MPBN - there goes my contribution.

So, I selfishly applaud the idea of requiring dual broadcasting. It is, after all, the public's airwaves. Broadcasters must either provide for the needs of all of the viewing public or pack it in and start selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door.

Disenfranchising some 6.5 million citizens is politically unthinkable to Congressional Democrats and the new administration. Republicans with rural constituents will either provide more time for conversion to digital broadcasting or face a backlash at their next attempt at reelection.

There really isn't a middle ground.

And so it goes...

No comments: