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Television Media Technology

Will America's Favorite Technology Go Dark? 930

Posted by Zonk
from the firefly-might-be-back-on-by-then dept.
Ant wrote to mention that MSNBC is reporting on the upcoming proposed digital television switchover planned for the end of 2006. From the article: "That's the date Congress targeted, a decade ago, for the end of analog television broadcasting and a full cutover to a digital format. If enforced, that means that overnight, somewhere around 70 million television sets now connected to rabbit ears or roof-top antennas will suddenly and forever go blank, unless their owners purchase a special converter box. Back when the legislation was written, New Year's Eve 2006 probably looked as safely distant as the dark side of the moon. But now that date is right around the corner and Congress and the FCC are struggling mightily to figure out what to do."
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Will America's Favorite Technology Go Dark?

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  • A suggestion maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hyu (763773) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:22AM (#12334492)
    Perhaps they should delay the switchover if they're not ready.
    • by Dal Platinum (829197) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:28AM (#12334519)
      Delays will make them look weak. There is no room for weakness in the analog-digital marketplace.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:44AM (#12334584)
        If congress delays this, they saying that they are delaying freedom and liberty to all.

        Don't you get it? We need High Definition 5.1 Channel 24 bit Audio to TRULY be Free. If we don't hold true and resolve with integrity, with the NTSC terrorists could take control of our antiquated ANALOG signals and broadcast terrorism to all coners of the globe.

        Yes, the only way to be truly Free is to have digital television & a PIMPED SUV to put it in..

        Consumerism. Whether you like it or not.
      • We all know that only a morally void character will flip-flop when presented with new evidence. I mean, otherwise it means they held on to the first opinion without substantial evidence.
    • As if... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Angstroem (692547)
      ...they would ever delay a date which was officially settled.

      Hubble telescope, anyone?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:47AM (#12334597)
      We're doing this in Germany right now. Some areas with high population density have already been switched to entirely digital distribution over the air. There is a difference however: Only a small percentage of viewers was receiving TV programming over the air anyways. Most viewers have cable (mostly analog) or satellite (mostly digital), so they were not affected by the switchover.

      DVB-S(atellite) is very popular, so we're used to set top boxes. DVB-T(errestrial) is very similar technology, so the receivers are already in the same price range (starting at about $65).

      If you delay this, you'll just be in the same situation some years down the road. Without setting a date and sticking to it, nothing gets done.
      • by Chess_the_cat (653159) on Monday April 25, 2005 @07:05AM (#12335024) Homepage
        If you delay this, you'll just be in the same situation some years down the road. Without setting a date and sticking to it, nothing gets done.

        What "situation"? The point is that it's not really important whether we switch or not. It's just television. I say, let the change happen organically. Sure, it might take a little longer but the last thing I need is the government mandating which TV I can buy.

        • by indifferent children (842621) on Monday April 25, 2005 @07:53AM (#12335200)
          If the government didn't mandate format and frequency standards, your TV stations would step all over each others' signal, and you would need to buy a new TV if you switched cable companies (just like you have to buy a new cell phone when you switch cell companies; just like you have to have a different cable-box for different cable companies, and your TiVo can't decode premium channels without a stupid IR-blaster (until we get the new FCC mandated CableCard equipment)).

          The free market is not the answer to every question.

          • by rolofft (256054) <[rolofft] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:46PM (#12338605)
            Of course, setting standards and measures is an accepted function of government. A universal width for railroad tracks is a simple example of a top-down decision working better than an "organic" bottom-up "format war". In the case of broadcasting, however, it's interesting to see how surprisingly successful broadcasting anarchy can be (at least in Italy [findarticles.com]):

            Instead of chaos - which is what everyone thought would happen - there was a new order, far more simple and perfect and porous than the old system of government fiat. Anyone is permitted to buy and operate a broadcast transmitter. You go to your local equivalent of Radio Shack and buy an FM or television transmitter and you are on the air.

            There are literally thousands of FM stations now, run by anyone who wants to transmit. Lansman said that it was in Rome he heard his first Hare Krishna station: it was the only one broadcasting chants 24 hours a day. ..."Since it always pays a broadcaster to go to the channel that is the least occupied, the power bill, the height of your antenna, your location, and your programming become your only limiting factors. It's the ultimate deregulation - restricted only by signal intensity, not the politics of oligopoly."
        • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75.yahoo@com> on Monday April 25, 2005 @10:48AM (#12336451)
          What "situation"? The point is that it's not really important whether we switch or not. It's just television.

          The problem is it's not just television. This is about freeing up radio spectrum for other things (like wireless communications), which is the entire point in changing over to digital TV in the first place, and the reason why the change was mandated rather than allowed to "happen organically". TV stations were given the extra spectrum required for DTV OTA broadcasts with the understanding that they would switch off their analog broadcasts at a certain date. There is no good reason I can see for allowing TV stations to hog all that spectrum, duplicating channels, for an unspecified period of time.

          Maybe not enough has been done to promote the switchover - obviously, there are some people even on Slashdot who don't understand why the switchover is even important. But it is, and it has to happen. I don't know what the solution is, but I wouldn't be averse to simply letting things go and seeing those "70 million" TV's go dark. (I doubt there are nearly that many analog-only sets receiving OTA broadcasts still in use anyway - are we counting analog sets hooked up to digital cable boxes like mine, as well as analog sets that are just sitting in a closet doing nothing? My guess is yes).

          I'm a little sick of luddites deciding matters of technology policy for the entire country. This would be the equivalent of forcing our phone system to continue to support the telegraph at the expense of voice communications because a few people still used it. At some point, you say enough is enough and force an upgrade for the good of the rest of the world.
    • by KiloByte (825081) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:48AM (#12334600)
      That delay would deny hard-lobbying^Wworking companies fruits of the law they already paid for.

      It's a matter of forcing people to ditch a solution that has been working for over 50 years, something that is dated but does its job, and is a lot cheaper. Old, cost-efficient things are what the industry hates. I run a server off a Pentium 120Mhz box -- do I need anything more for a minor WWW server that doubles as a border router for a small company LAN and an ISDN dial-in box for several employees? It works just perfectly. I get more from this ancient machine than you get from your P4 6Ghz if you waste your CPU cycles for running a spiffy GUI that blue-screens once a week.

      The poor who watch TV can't afford HDTV. What they need, is low-cost entertainment, not high-end displays. I'm sorry if it cuts your company's bottom line -- but using legislation to force people to throw out what's working well just so they have to pay the upgrade costs is just wrong.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:00AM (#12334651)
        Analog TV emission is wasteful. Spectrum is a scarce resource (at least the ranges which are well-suited for long distances) and digital transmission makes much better use of it. Spectrum is also a public resource, and some of us don't want to see it being wasted any longer. Your right to use outdated technology collides with my right to put the frequencies to better use.
        • by luvirini (753157)
          indeed. I have not looked into the american system, but the DVD-T system used in europe gets 4 channels in the place of one old channel. In addition because of the ways the analog signal had to have large areas around the primary transmission area not using the sam frequency there is an actual additional factor of more than 5.. probabbly order of magnitude 10+ increase in the efficiency of use. Thus you get probably 20-40+ channels for the same spectrum used for the purpose.
          • by makomk (752139)
            We in the UK get switchoff in about 2008, probably. The set-top boxes are about £30 or so for a basic model (normal res only - we haven't got HDTV), more for HDD recorders and the like. You can get TV cards that support digital, but they seem to be more expensive than set-top boxes for some reason
        • by bigpat (158134) on Monday April 25, 2005 @10:36AM (#12336325)
          " Analog TV emission is wasteful."

          Drop the "Analog" part of that statement and we can agree.
        • by sjames (1099) on Monday April 25, 2005 @11:11AM (#12336670) Homepage

          Spectrum is also a public resource, and some of us don't want to see it being wasted any longer. Your right to use outdated technology collides with my right to put the frequencies to better use.

          The analog TV broadcasts are wasteful, but so is a sharp transition away from them.

          Since there are easily 300 million analog sets in the U.S. now, and most figures I've seen is that a converter should cost around $30, the value of auctioning the VHF and UHF TV bands off better exceed 9 billion dollars just to cover TVs.

          Now, we need to add in the new VCRs (since a VCR with a converter loses the ability to do a timed record of more than one channel (sequentially). Assuming cheap VCR's around $50, and 100 million of them, that's another 5 billion dollars.

          Now, the portable TVs and VCR/TV combos that can't be 'upgraded' have to be replaced. I have no decent guesses how much that will cost, but for the sake of argument, let's call it 1 billion.

          So, we now arrive at 15 billion dollars the FCC expects the public to shell out just to stay with the status quo.

          Does anyone know how much it costs a TV station to convert? Those costs will have to be added in as well.

          Given those costs, it's already an uphill battle if the FCC expects the transition to happen any time in the next few decades. Just to make matters worse for themselves, the FCC allowed the 'broadcast flag' nonsense into an already difficult situation. While that might be a boon for gray market manufacturers of 'signal enhancers' that just happen to lose the broadcast flag in the process, I doubt the FCC intended that, and everyone else but the MPAA loses.

          If the FCC is serious about ever transitioning to DTV, it needs to drop the broadcast flag nonsense, and come up with a way for TV stations to broadcast digital and analog in parallel for a few years and then mandate that they do so (with some form of just compensation). Then they need to encourage manufacturers to make the new TVs and VCRs digital only. If they don't do that, digital will become an overpriced hard-sell feature and bargain analog sets will continue to sell vigorously.

          They will need to keep that up until nearly all analog sets die of old age or everybody voluntarily upgrades for the clearer picture (that will happen about the time small cheap sets for about $30 hit the market).

          Finally, when the transition is complete and they auction off the old VHF and UHF TV bands, the proceeds from that will need to be used to pay for the incentives and just compensation they had to give broadcasters and manufacturers.

          Somehow, I doubt they will do what it takes. It will be interesting to watch what happens when the FCC and federal government try to take the people's bread and circuses away. TV is the new opiate of the masses.

      • There's nothing wrong with old equipment. There is if it's there forever, though.

        There still aren't very many HD channels or programs that I see advertised in my area, and I live by Detroit. The switch is moving at a near-glacial rate.

        If the government forces channels to switch over, though, it'll happen much more quickly. People will go out and buy HD sets, and with any luck the technology will begin to drop in price more quickly than it has to date.

        To be honest, I don't see this switch happening

      • by Desprez (702166) on Monday April 25, 2005 @06:26AM (#12334887)
        I invite evertone to read this article [nationaljournal.com] I realise that your not going to, this is Slashdot after all, but it answers many questions.

        To quote from BoingBoing:

        This long, excellent article on the history of broadcast spectrum allocation in America is the single best explanation of the mess that we're in today. In short: greedy broadcasters tricked Congress into giving them free spectrum for a second set of digital channels, so that Americans who bought digital TVs would have something to watch. Then they did nothing with them. Meantime, cops and firefighters and EMTs are (literally) dying for some of that squat-upon spectrum so that they can coordinate their rescue efforts.
        Among other things, it explains WHY a date was set for a crossover to HDTV. Sure TV works just fine now, so why switch you ask? Actually, it's NOT about trying to sell the public new TVs. It sounds simple, but that's a very narrow view that doesn't see the whole picture and all the politics behind what's going on. The linked article sheds quite a bit of light on that.
      • by internic (453511)

        Not sure I qualify as the poor, but maybe the "not affluent". My view is that I don't really need to be able to watch "Everybody Loves Reaming", "American Idol", or whatever other god-forsaken crap they have on with more pixels. Most things on TV don't benefit much from higher resolution, especially if you don't have a huge TV. What about DVDs? Well, I admit that watching the MPEG encoding artifacts can be amusing, but it's also not worth paying for. If they were the same price, sure I might choose HD

    • Perhaps they should delay the switchover if they're not ready.

      Oh, but "they" are as ready as they can be.

      The driving force behind the legislation to abolish analog TV is the big media companies, who want to "plug the analog hole". That's why this is happening simultaneously in most of the industrialized world, despite the fact that no consumers have asked for it anywhere.

      Their motive isn't to give you better quality pictures or (God forbid!) more choice. They want to force everybody to switch to digital because only digital technologies support strong DRM restrictions.

      They can't retroactively change the court cases from the 70's that declared it legal to record TV shows on video for your own use. But by introducing new technology that makes it impossible to do so, they can make the legal point moot.

      And by switching from analog to digial, they move away from the legal area where a reasonable balance has been struck between the interests of consumers and copyright holders, and into DMCA territory, where you're more or less classified as a terrorist if you even try to tamper with the copy protection.

      I apologize for being so dystopian.

      • by MojoStan (776183) on Monday April 25, 2005 @06:22AM (#12334877)
        Your insightful dystopian [google.com] rant about strong DRM restrictions reminded me of another important deadline related to digital television:
        After July 2005, it will be illegal to manufacture or import over-the-air DTV tuners that can ignore the "broadcast flag."
        So we have about 2 months to buy an OTA HDTV tuner card for our HTPCs. Here's a link to the EFF's take on this subject: The Broadcast Flag and "Plug & Play": The FCC's Lockdown of Digital Television [eff.org].
      • The driving force behind the legislation to abolish analog TV is the big media companies, who want to "plug the analog hole".

        Until the signal plugs into my robotic central nervous system, there will always be an anlogue hole... my dilated pupil.

  • dvd (Score:5, Funny)

    by rd4tech (711615) * on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:22AM (#12334495)
    Back in 1996, when the digital television transition was first proposed, media analyst Gary Arlen observed wryly that "it will be easier for Congress to take away Social Security than television sets."

    They can take my TV set out of my cold.... oh wait, let me see what ad-free dvd movie to watch first...
    • Re:dvd (Score:5, Funny)

      by Professor_UNIX (867045) on Monday April 25, 2005 @08:31AM (#12335409)
      They can take my TV set out of my cold.... oh wait, let me see what ad-free dvd movie to watch first...

      According to Star Trek: TNG episode "The Neutral Zone", television as a medium doesn't survive much past the mid-21st century. Around the time of WWIII.

  • Subject (Score:4, Funny)

    by Legion303 (97901) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:23AM (#12334498) Homepage
    Expect congress to push the date back or be swamped with rednecks bitching about their TV.
  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:23AM (#12334502) Journal
    Like the brave Ithacans who faced down the deadly cyclops, these legislators are facing down the awful realities of trying to legislate technological progress. And like the Ithacans, they are getting their heads dashed against the rocks and eaten.
    • Holy crap! I knew that particle accelerator at Cornell was going to be bad news! But did anybody listen? Noooooooo!
  • Subsidize? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TWooster (696270) <[twooster] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:25AM (#12334509)
    Well, the government had either lift the regulation or start subsidizing these sets somehow. Oh wait, that comes out of our taxpayer money... For the people by the people my ass if this goes through without some kind of recompense. The market simply isn't ready for it...

    But on the bright side, what a way to get your average Joe to take a look at the government and the way it operates than to turn off his idiot tube. Not that this regulation was all bad -- it was to spur on development. Would that they'd do away wth IP patents in the same way.

    We'll see. In this case, the revolution may really NOT be televised.
    • Re:Subsidize? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mac Degger (576336) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:55AM (#12334628) Journal
      I'm sorry, but are you advocating that a government subsidise a technological swith concerning /a television technology/? Come on! Of all the things a government should spebd money on, /this is not it!/

      A government should spend money on education or the environment...not on the quality of your tv picture!
      • sed: 1: "/a television technology/?": invalid command code ?
      • Re:Subsidize? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Monday April 25, 2005 @07:23AM (#12335071)
        Which government do you mean by the government. It can't be the US government. The government has no constitional authority to have any role whatsoever in education, the environment, or television. All you're saying is that you don't like the government's blatantly unconstitional and illegal interference in television standards, but you'd like the government to engage in blatantly unconstitional and illegal power grabs for your pet issues education and "the environment." You have no more legitimacy or authority than the very people you're railing against!
    • Re:Subsidize? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 1u3hr (530656)
      Well, the government had either lift the regulation or start subsidizing these sets somehow. Oh wait, that comes out of our taxpayer money

      In TFA it's said one reason there is a push to turn off analog broadcasting on schedule is that it will open up the frequencies for other uses. The FCC would auction these off for billions. Elsewhere it states the converter box would cost about $50-100. Spend a small part of the profit from selling the frequencies to subsidise converters for the poor. Same as compensat

      • Re:Subsidize? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tweek (18111) on Monday April 25, 2005 @07:26AM (#12335087) Homepage Journal
        I just checked the circuit city website and the cheapest STB i can get is around $250US. And I'll still need the antennae.

        I'm sure the prices will come down some but this $50-$100 cost better be close to $50 before I'll buy.

        We ditched cable last year because we were in and out of town so much planning for our wedding. We've not hooked it back up yet. We keep talking about it but never actually do it. I kind of like not shelling out $80 a month on shit I hardly watch.

        I remember when I called to cancel, the cable company asked me while I was cancelling. The tried every trick in the book. I finally told them "The day you provide a package where I can get local channels and pick a few of the others like Discovery, BBC and TLC is the day I'll reactivate my service. Disconnect me please."

        The woman gave in at that point.

        The only time my wife uses the rabbit ears now is to watch Law and Order. The only other use the TV gets is DVDs and game consoles.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday April 25, 2005 @06:28AM (#12334892) Homepage
      Can you help?

      Plasmas for the poor is a program that helps get this wonderful and empowering technology in the hands of the poor. Every time you buy another LCD or Plasma HDTV for your home $27.50 goes towards buying a smaller plasma Tv for some poor unfortunate family that has to suffer with a 36 inch, 32 inch 27 inch or even sometimes a 19 inch regular television. I know it's horrible but a fact. There are children out thereright now watching standard analog tv on a 19 inch television.

      Can you help? buy more plasma or LCD televisions right now and help the poor.

      (message paid for by Phillips,marantz,Sony,Toshiba nad Absolut corperations...)
  • by lxt (724570) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:25AM (#12334511) Journal
    ...in the UK, this is already happening, region by region - even though the official switchover isn't until 2008 or so. The first switchover was to a small area of Wales (with a smallish population), who decided by public vote (around 95% in favour) to switch off the analogue transmissions completely. I think my area (south west england/south wales) is scheduled next, although not for a year or so. Obviously, it's a lot easier to provide digital signals to the whole of the UK than it is to the entire of the US.

    Of course, it's also to the UK (and I guess the US's) government's benefit, since by switching off early they can sell of the frequencies earlier, and get cash sooner.
    • by Ford Prefect (8777) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:35AM (#12334539) Homepage
      Of course, it's also to the UK (and I guess the US's) government's benefit, since by switching off early they can sell of the frequencies earlier, and get cash sooner.

      I'm wondering what is going to happen to the area of the radio spectrum previously used by analogue television when it is finally switched off - there must be a decent amount of bandwidth there, and I seriously doubt it'll be allowed to fester.

      Higher bitrates for DVB (the current blocking artefacts on BBC1 etc. are ridiculous)? More digital TV channels? A big sell-off for (my hypothetical) 4G mobile phones, making £zillions for the government and near-bankrupting the over-zealous mobile phone companies again?

      Still, a form of DVB which doesn't suffer from massive corruption when a lawnmower's running would be nice - it'll be annoying not having the analogue stuff as a fallback... ;-)

      • I wouldn't be so quick to blame the technology. It may just be your TV box. We originally had a Bush DFTA4 set top box, which was rubbish. The picture would freeze and loose sound periodically for no reason. Upgrading to a VTX-D800U solved all the problems and now the picture on all channels are perfect.

        I guess you get what you pay for!
  • TV sets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Heian-794 (834234) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:27AM (#12334514) Homepage
    These TVs aren't exactly obsolete -- they can still function as monitors for game systems, video tapes, DVDs, etc., etc. The question is how expensive these converter boxes will be. I might be willing to shell out the money for one of those, attach it to the oldest functioning TV set I can find, and have a nice retro piece.
  • by bleckywelcky (518520) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:38AM (#12334556)
    Personally, I would find it hilarious to see the aftermath of all this.

    Just imagine: millions of rednecks and fat bastards on welfare with too many kids marching from over the hillside a la civil-war front-line style, raising rabit ears over their heads, pulling their circa 1970 TV sets in their little red Radio Flyer wagons, screaming some indiscernible southern hick yella-belly gibberish that amounts to "give us tv or give us death", the ground trembling as they aproach, the stench overwhelming even though they are downwind, their tattered and soiled clothes barely covering the numerous warts and rashes, legislators running in horror, asking "why allah, why oh why?!?!"

    Yeh, that would be funny.
    • by NetNifty (796376) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:58AM (#12334637) Homepage
      So THAT's how John Titor's civil war starts!
    • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:15AM (#12334697) Homepage
      Your sentiments are said in other posts here on slashdot, albiet in somewhat less a humorous manner. However...

      What, exactly, makes you think that only "rednecks" and fat people on welfare have antiquated TVs?

      I'm most certainly not a redneck; I'm probably more hippy than redneck. My wife and I own one TV. It's circa 1995 or so, and still works fine. We don't actually watch TV, but use it mostly for movies. Sometimes I'll sit down and watch an episode of Law and order on monday night or something, but that's about it. I am most certianly not going to shell out $100+ for a new TV when my old one works fine.

      Honestly, I doubt this legislation will impact many. Most people don't watch broadcast TV (they watch cable), so cable companies can decide if htey'll continue to send out 'antiquated' signals. For the most part, cable companies have already switched to digital, and have provided people with the appropriate digital cable box. Not an issue: the only people that will be impacted will be those that don't care enough about TV to pay for cable. They'll either get cable, or not watch TV.
  • by Funksaw (636954) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:43AM (#12334577)
    The reason that no one really gives a damn about switching over is that most people have cable or satellite, while those of us (including myself, still on rabbit ears) just don't think American television is damn good enough to pay for. The Brits bitch about their TV licences, but at least they get kick-ass television and television news that is second to none. I would gladly pay it. But am I going to buy a converter box to watch American TV? No - I barely even watch the rabbit ears now - my TV is basically a device for watching VHS tapes on. It's a slightly bigger screen to invite friends over to look at (instead of the computer monitor) and to be frank, I don't know if it's worthwhile to lug to my new apartment when my lease is up. And if you want me to subsidize this farce? The only way you will get me to support subsidizing television is if either the companies that put television on the air start putting on some shows worth watching or we move to an "all stations are publically financed and owned by the government" BBC-like model. I plan to solve the problem by living in another country by the time that New Years Even 2006 rolls around, but this has been a clusterf*ck at the FCC. The waste of HDTV bandwidth and the utter mismanagement of this FCC, spending more time looking for nipples than caring about technology. The corporations squatted the spectrum, didn't do anything with it... why hasn't the FCC responded with the only possible course of action and removed their licences!
    • by rpjs (126615) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:56AM (#12334632)
      Being British, but married to an American, I used to subscribe to the "of course British TV is better" point of view, but I have to say that in recent years, the quality of US programming has got better and better and British programming, has tended to get worse and worse.

      Having said that, the sheer amount of advertising on US tv is quite jaw-dropping, and I hate the way they cut straight from the programme to the ad without any "end of part 1" malarky like we still have. US tv news is on the whole worse than the UK's I'd say, although it is good to see truly local TV news unlike the pathertic excuse for it we have in the UK.

      [1] although I do think the BBBC has been getting rather better of late [2]
      [2] contrast though to the howling wasteland ITV has become
      • If we labeled the commercial breaks with "Part 1", etc. even Joe Redneck would figure out how badly the broadcasters are screwing him.

        Assuming he could count that high...
      • Actually, I'm studying Journalism for a postgrad degree and let me tell you, local television news is nothing to be proud of. Yes, it's *actually* local, but mostly it's video news releases - commercials. When the local supermarket chain produces the video news release about where to find the best and cheapest items, and they don't tell you that the supermarket chain is doing it... (like a local station did here in Texas.)

        Local television news isn't. I don't know what it is, but at the Journalism school
      • what I find highly amusing is the fuzzed out product placement logos when the shows get rebroadcast over here... if the sponsors haven't stumped up the money for covering the UK market, then those logos get fuzzed to avoid them being seen. Even funnier is when one logo gets replaced by one of a completely different product and only the wobbling of the replacement gives it away...

        American Idol is a case in point, all those Coke logos on the glasses of the judging panel are fuzzed out, but any reflections on

  • Damn the media (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:47AM (#12334594)
    Keep in mind, the original legislation did state that 85% of the TV viewership must be on digital TV before they will simply turn it off: "Under federal law, analog service will continue until most homes (85%) in an area are able to watch the DTV programming." (from http://www.dtv.gov/consumercorner.html#needanewtv [dtv.gov]) MSNBC is just making news of a moot point. Granted, they mentioned this in the text, too: "That's where the Congressional loophole comes in. Congress can ignore the end-of-2006 cut-off if fewer than 85 percent of households have digital television sets." I really hate the media.
  • by Wonderkid (541329) on Monday April 25, 2005 @04:58AM (#12334636) Homepage
    Here in (currently) rainy England, one can buy for not very much money a set top box that provides free access to the most popular channels, with more available on subscription or through regular satellite or cable providers. The price of the boxes has fallen to below £50 and the convenience they bring - such as electronic program guides and reminders, plus the significant improvement in picture and audio quality, makes them worthwhile. Therefore, most people buy them and buy them for their relatives too who may not be able to afford or understand what they have to do. (I'm buying one for my Mum.) This is probably going to happen in the USA, and just as people worried some would be left behind in the digital revolution - yet were not, same with the great digital switchover. Market forces and kindness will save the day.
  • by Loligo (12021) on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:10AM (#12334685) Homepage

    The quality of the PICTURE isn't so much the issue with TV, it's the quality of the PROGRAMMING.

    Give me something worth watching first, then worry about improving the definition.

    "Survivor", "Joey", and "American Idol" in 1080i are still crap, they're just crap in high resolution.

  • by FullCircle (643323) on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:20AM (#12334711)
    I've never heard a non geek complain about picture quality on an average broadcast TV. Unless it's a signal strength problem or a failing TV, consumers don't care. NTSC is good enough.

    Look at the number of people who download TV shows. The quality really isn't as good as a broadcast but people love it anyway.

    The electronics companies needed a way to revolutionize the industry. The consumer isn't driving this revolution.

    Just like IBM's Microchannel and Intel's Rambus fiasco, this "improvement" will probably be rejected by the consumer. Online (streaming and/or downloadable) TV may take a big chunk out of the broadcast TV market.
    • by Dachannien (617929) on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:23AM (#12334722)
      This isn't about picture quality. It's about phasing out spectrum-hogging analog signals in favor of digital signals so the FCC can reclaim most of the spectrum currently used for analog TV. The increase in picture quality is just a sugar coating to help everyone else go along with it.

    • by zakezuke (229119) on Monday April 25, 2005 @06:31AM (#12334901)
      I've never heard a non geek complain about picture quality on an average broadcast TV. Unless it's a signal strength problem or a failing TV, consumers don't care. NTSC is good enough.


      Because a non-geek simply doesn't know any better, or know there is another option.

      Look at the number of people who download TV shows. The quality really isn't as good as a broadcast but people love it anyway.

      VCD for example isn't anywhere close to broadcast, but looks a hell of a lot better than VHS SLP mode and if burnt to CD cost less than VHS tape.

      Those HDTV rips... even those 350meg ones look better on my PC monitor than the TV broadcast on my TV. Those 700meg TV rips are at the point where they are so close to broadcast quality I couldn't care less. Now those direct copies off PVRs, direct digital to mpeg-2 look exactly like the broadcast as they are 1:1 with the broadcast. From what i'e seen these are pretty limited to the newsgroups.

  • by DrJimbo (594231) on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:24AM (#12334725)
    What a great story to start off National [turnoffyourtv.com] TV-Turnoff [turnoffyourtv.com] Week [tvturnoff.org].
  • by CanadaDave (544515) on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:27AM (#12334731) Homepage
    It sounds like a good idea to just do this suddenly. I think a lot of Americans might decide to go outside and get some exercise if suddenly they couldn't watch TV or couldn't afford upgrades. Then again, maybe they'll start a riot, and use their defunct TVs to smash store windows once the mayhem ensues.
  • by Advocadus Diaboli (323784) on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:30AM (#12334737)
    That means if the TV sets go dark on new year's eve 2006 the US is expecting a baby boom in autumn 2006.
  • by master_p (608214) on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:46AM (#12334776)
    More digital television means actually less television for the mass market, which in turn means less control of the population, and ultimately more democracy. It might force people to buy a newspaper to learn the news, instead of watching useless mind-altering garbage TV shows for 5 or more hours per day.
  • by Kris_J (10111) * on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:48AM (#12334781) Journal
    I have dozens of devices that can generate a video signal. My old TV is not going to go blank, even if I never watch a DTV signal ever.
  • DirectTV going HDTV (Score:3, Interesting)

    by keen (86192) on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:53AM (#12334796)
    Tuesday morning, DirectTV is going to be putting up a new bird, the Spaceway 1.

    "After a checkout period, Spaceway 1 will go into service this summer to begin DIRECTV's new program offering for both national and local high-definition channels to its customers across the United States. It will later be joined by three other satellites to fully implement the system by 2007."

    "By 2007, the number of high-definition channels will be expanded to over 1,500, and DIRECTV says its next-generation services will be able to reach every U.S. household."

    "Spaceway 1 carries a two-meter transmit antenna with full steering ability that can form multiple spot beams to customize programming in different regions of the country. This communications payload has a total bandwidth capacity of about 10 gigabytes per second."

    I find this preferable to our government's enforced upgrades, although I can see the arguments for more efficient bandwidth usage.

    More info [spaceflightnow.com]
  • by nsafreak (523874) on Monday April 25, 2005 @06:05AM (#12334831)
    This is NOT a conversion from analogue TV to HDTV. It is a conversion from analogue TV to digital TV and there is a BIG difference. Does sending a digital signal allow the broadcasting station to send a HDTV broadcast? Yes. Do they HAVE to transmit a HDTV broadcast? NO. The fact is a lot of consumers, how many I do not know, already have the capability to receive a digital transmission. This is done through a variety of methods such as subscribing to a cable or satellite service. Folks with either of those services will likely not notice a change.

    Now the folks with an old analogue only TV set that are receiving their signal from rabbit ears are going to notice a change once the analogue signals are shut off. Some may subscribe to satellite or cable I suppose but there will likely be a fair amount that do not wish to and will complain LOUDLY. It will only get louder if the ATSC tuner boxes necessary to get their sets working with the new signal are too expensive. The other option of course will be to buy a set with an ATSC tuner built in but a lot of folks won't like doing that either.

    Right now I would say it's quite probable that the switchover will be delayed.
  • Maybe they are afraid that if this happens, a lot of Americans will miss out on the TV propaganda. What would happen then?
  • by thebdj (768618) on Monday April 25, 2005 @07:31AM (#12335108) Journal
    Okay people, calm down. We are only talking about Over-The-Air broadcasts here. Which I think some of you have forgotten. From the article, 85% of Americans get their TV from Cable or Satellite. That means only 15% are going to be shit out of luck. To be honest, things should just switch off on Jan 1, 2006 and cut all analog broadcasts. It would be nice to see the government quasi-encouraging technology for a change instead of stifling it.
  • Italy... sigh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lattepiu (877113) on Monday April 25, 2005 @07:32AM (#12335117)
    Here in Italy, the switch is sheduled for 31 december 2006.
    What's "fun" is that nobody was even considering it until some four years ago. The move was decided in a rush, and the government granted *150 euros* to anyone who buys a decoder. That is, 100% of the price for many brands (incidentally, if you're 16 you can get just slightly more to buy a PC). Why all this generosity?
    Well, it happens that, as you may know, italian prime minister Berlusconi also own 3 of the 7 major channels (3 of the remaining ones being state owned). To contrast this monopolist position a law was passed years ago limiting to two the channels a single corp can control. Berlusconi managed to ingore it until 2003, when he ruled that if DT had been adopted by the majority of italians by 2006. The rest is history. What blows me is that it seems most people just don't get that *they* are paying for the decoder they are getting "for free" from the store.
    That's why I for one don't welcome our new DVB-T overlords...
  • by CrazyTalk (662055) on Monday April 25, 2005 @08:58AM (#12335578)
    This is a classic example of that truism. Most people don't need, don't want, and can't afford new televisions throughout their house, and I would guess are more or less happy with their current analog pictures. The government shouldn't be forcing this down everyones throats. And the idea that the government would pay to subsidize converters for low income households is ludicrous, when there are people within even the US that do not have enough money to eat.
  • by potus98 (741836) on Monday April 25, 2005 @09:00AM (#12335590) Journal

    Oh the travesty! Imagine the horrors: families talking with one another, people reading books, or [gasp] exercising. How will America's youth compete in the global economy of tommorrow if they don't get the recommended daily allowance of One Day to Live, When Desperate Housewives Attack, or Oxy-Clean infomercials?

  • I hate digital TV (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 25, 2005 @09:09AM (#12335646)
    As someone who's made the unfortunate switch over to digital satellite TV, I can say I hate it.

    In an analog transmission, if the signal gets weak, I get a bit of snow in the overall picture. In a digital transmission a weak signal results in ugly "garbage" data (squares, pixels, weird colors, black spots and sound clicks and drops).

    In an analog transmission, the full clear picture is a full clear picture. In a digital transmission, I can see MPEG artifacts everywhere (most noticeable next to sharp edges, like credits and subtitles, and in subtle gradients). It's in NO way a better picture than analog!
  • Pefect Timing! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheOtherChimeraTwin (697085) on Monday April 25, 2005 @09:16AM (#12335690)
    Excellent timing on the article, since today is the start of TV-TURNOFF WEEK 2005 [tvturnoff.org]
  • by jav1231 (539129) on Monday April 25, 2005 @09:21AM (#12335716)
    Until Wal-Mart can sell $100 Digital TV's, this just isn't going to happen. If not, the converter better be cheap. The money made on beer ads and McDonald's commercials dwarfs the severity of the situation.
    "You know me, Marge! I like my TV loud, my beer cold, and my signal analog!"
  • by Parsa (525963) on Monday April 25, 2005 @09:44AM (#12335874) Homepage
    I'm from a very small farming community. They don't have cable, they don't have high speed internet, the cows out number the people there.

    To get channels besides local stations people have to get satellite. It's not that bad really, I like satellite more than I like cable. But didn't congress pass a law several years ago saying satellite providers couldn't carry local channels and they couldn't provide locals from other markets?

    So congress (in effect) is saying that they can't have antenna's to watch local TV, and they can't use satellite to watch local TV, but they don't get cable to be able to watch.

    ?????

    J
  • ... 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

    ... hiss ...

    It's got my vote!
  • Keep broadcasting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by katorga (623930) on Monday April 25, 2005 @10:29AM (#12336258)
    The idea of "forcing" large numbers of people, including low income or rural populations, to purchase expensive converters or new TV's is offensive. It smacks of the same sort of simony involved with the pay-for-weather sites trying to force noaa.gov to stop providing free online weather feeds so that they can force taxpayers to pay for the feeds.

    Granted there is nothing on analog broadcasts worth watching, but nations do need simple, broadcast media for government communications, emergency communications and other items which fall within the national interest.

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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