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Obama Recommends Delay In Digital TV Switch 589

Posted by timothy
from the but-the-coupons-have-been-printed-already dept.
gregg writes "Six weeks before the nation's television stations are scheduled to convert to digital transmission, the Obama administration is asking Congress to consider a delay. In the most significant sign to date of concern about the impending digital TV transition, the Obama transition team co-chair John Podesta said the government funds to support the change are 'woefully inadequate' and said that the digital switch date, Feb. 17, should be 'reconsidered and extended.'"
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Obama Recommends Delay In Digital TV Switch

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  • by camperdave (969942) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:14PM (#26378199) Journal
    In other words, the TV in the Oval Office isn't digital ready, and Obama doesn't want to miss American Idol.
  • by rsborg (111459) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:14PM (#26378201) Homepage
    Given the dtv coupon program is broke [gizmodo.com], it probably makes sense.

    Fact is a lot of people aren't affected by the switch (me included) but I think it's only fair for those who can't get the help transitioning, to be able to have extra time to switch over.

    • by Deltaspectre (796409) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:18PM (#26378295)

      It seems to me that anyone that hasn't received a coupon by now is just going to wait until the next deadline. Wasn't analog supposed to go off the air in 2006? Enough delays already, time to just rip the bandaid off.

    • They've had years (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:19PM (#26378307)

      The switch was already supposed to happen years ago, but they delayed things back then for the same reason. Should we delay forever and waste a huge amount of spectrum on an ancient broadcasting mechanism?

      I think the program is out of money because a lot of people who don't even need coupons are getting them - my guess is that probably half of the people at least do not understand that if they have cable they don't need a different box.

      There's still more than a month til the switch, time enough to sort out who really needs help and help them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130)

        The switch was already supposed to happen years ago, but they delayed things back then for the same reason. Should we delay forever and waste a huge amount of spectrum on an ancient broadcasting mechanism?

        And to what great use are Verizon and AT&T putting this spectrum? Assuming I'm not a customer of either, how is this better for me? Especially if I don't have cable or a coupon...

        I think the program is out of money because a lot of people who don't even need coupons are getting them - my guess is tha

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by johnsonav (1098915)

      I think it's only fair for those who can't get the help transitioning, to be able to have extra time to switch over.

      What about all the companies who bought licenses for those frequencies and would now have to wait until it becomes politically acceptable? I don't think they would approve the government changing their contracts.

  • by ndykman (659315) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:14PM (#26378207)

    Given the state of broadcast television, I can't say blacking some people out wouldn't do them a favor. Okay, you need to get a convertor box and you may have to wait to get one, but if we encourage people in the meantime to read a book, go to the library, use the computer there and read the news and so on, that's bad? Really?

    I mean, I'm scared that people think that TV is that much of a requirement. Local news is nice and all, sure, but you can make do.

  • Change! (Score:2, Funny)

    by zulater (635326)
    He just want's to change everything the previous administration did!
  • Too late!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:16PM (#26378233)

    What about all the people that have already bought equipment and are waiting for the stations to go full power with DV? What about all of the stations who have spent tons of money and time gearing up for the switch? In my city (Denver) we have a large new tower built for broadcasting HD, and part of the promise to the residents of the area was that after the switch happened the old towers (and associated problems with them broadcasting) would go away. If you let this linger another year or two they are kind of screwed.

    It's going to have to happen sometime, it might as well be now. Yes it sucks that the coupon program is underfunded (the web site you use to get coupons says they are out of money, so no more coupons are to be had), so make it a priority to get coupons out to those in rural areas much less likely to have cable or satellite already.

    You just can't decide at the last moment to pull the rug out from under what is a useful technical move forward. There has to be some continuity between what government says will happen and what actually happens, or all dissolves to chaos as government promises are further devalued.

    • by nizo (81281) *

      One of the local tv stations is going to make the switch one week early, so no matter what the govt says at this point is probably irrelevant anyway.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      What about all of the stations who have spent tons of money and time gearing up for the switch? In my city (Denver) we have a large new tower built for broadcasting HD, and part of the promise to the residents of the area was that after the switch happened the old towers (and associated problems with them broadcasting) would go away. If you let this linger another year or two they are kind of screwed.

      Well it's not like they aren't allowed to broadcast digitally (many already are), or turn off their analog b

  • Riot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by z-j-y (1056250) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:17PM (#26378253)

    There will be riots on street, if millions of low income homes are out of TV.

    No, seriously.

    • Re:Riot (Score:4, Funny)

      by nizo (81281) * on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:23PM (#26378385) Homepage Journal

      So people need to just remember to loot a new TV or converter box. Problem solved!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by superdave80 (1226592)

      People that are too lazy to go get a converter box are suddenly going to take to the streets with torches and pitchforks? I find that highly unlikely.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        People don't lack converter boxes because they're lazy, they lack them because a) they can't afford them and b) the government ran out of coupons.

    • Nobody uses OTA... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MarcQuadra (129430) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @07:27PM (#26380077)

      From my POV here in Rhode Island, it looks like most 'poor' people have satellite, the middle class have cable and fios. I attribute this to the sat. companies not doing a credit check, which the cable companies seem to do.

      The upper-middle class are the only folks I see with 'regular' TVs anymore. They listen to NPR and tune in to PBS or watch the news, but that's pretty much it.

      And the rich folks... I wouldn't know. They never invite me over. :-) I would assume they keep high-end HDTV setups, but rarely watch.

      I do think that there is an inversely proportional relationship to how much TV you watch and how much money you make though. I don't really ever spot my well-to-do friends watching TV. I haven't figured out if it's because

      more disposable income -> better things to do than TV

      or

      educated and motivated -> more disposable income

      The funny thing was, I went over to my parents a few days ago, and they think they're all set because they have cable, which is true in the TV room; but then they flipped on their little black-and-white 4" TV in the kitchen for the news. I pointed out that they'll have to drop about two hundred bucks to replace -that-, to which my dad replied, "Screw it, I'll throw it away."

      Come to think of it, I haven't seen -one- actual, installed DTV converter, and I was in a -lot- of houses in the last month. I also don't know anyone who consumes OTA digital TV.

      I'll bet there are a -ton- of elderly folks in those huge apartment towers I see all over town that have bunny ears though... They're going to be pissed, and they vote.

    • Re:Riot (Score:4, Funny)

      by sacrilicious (316896) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:38PM (#26381863) Homepage

      There will be riots on street, if millions of low income homes are out of TV.

      And that is one revolution that will not be televised.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:17PM (#26378265)

    Why is the government pushing digital. It is not for the clearer image. It is because it takes less airspace, and you can free and resell a lot of the airspace.
    However that said. Delaying this isn't really going to help anything. Most Americans either don't watch TV (perhaps playing movies) or have cable or satellite hooked up. The largest group effected is the Sr. Citizens. Who are not much effected by the economy (minus the ones with good 401k) but for the most part the pain going digital will be the same today as it will be next year.
    Besides there is no important information that you can get on TV that you cant get via the Radio. You may actually get it faster via the radio.

  • by MBCook (132727)

    Noooooo. Let's let things actually finish. We're SO CLOSE.

    Fun the coupon program better with an executive order. Let analog stay on at night for a while in "nightlight mode" as has been discussed (just shows a "you need a converter box" screen).

    But please, we're so close. The trial in November went very well, and the nightlight thing was shown to be very helpful.

    But please don't delay things. "Enough people" will never be ready. This needs to happen, it's not like it's news. We've known about this for 2+

    • Re:Nooooo (Score:5, Funny)

      by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:21PM (#26378353)

      Fun the coupon program better with an executive order.

      I know its hard to grasp after the last 8 years, but Constitutionally the US is not an executive dictatorship where the President can just allocate funds to any purpose he chooses on a whim.

  • by lee1026 (876806) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:19PM (#26378311)

    After all, the spectrum that TV uses have already being partly sold. Wouldn't Verizon, et. al. be rather annoyed about this development?

  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RedHelix (882676)
    Why should the government still be obligated to assist everyone at this stage in the game? The coupon program dried up; tough noogies, you've only had nearly a year to apply for one. If you needed the discount that badly, then you should have taken 2 minutes to apply earlier. And if you can't muster up the cash to rub two 20's together, your ability to watch television should not be anywhere on your radar at the moment.

    Beh
  • I seem to remember that it was a parody of "The Shining".

    The US has enough problems right now. They don't need a bunch of TV-starved psychos running around, killing their families, as well.

  • In Utah at least, there are two areas where the analog signals have already been turned off. Granted they are areas that are served via translator stations, but AFIK, the analog signals were turned off (one in December, one earlier).

    All stations should be broadcasting in digital already. Most Utah stations have been broadcasting in digital for a while. They turned on the digital broadcast tower in 1999 (see here [wikipedia.org]) for which most local stations use. The only reason for the delay would be to give the co
  • He also supports keeping the space shuttle on life support (@ $3B/yr).

  • Oh, hell no. I am so tired of all the PSA, and businesses running ads, about how I can be ready for The Big Switch, I could scream. Leave it alone, and let it happen.
  • by tetranz (446973) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:38PM (#26378675)

    I hope there will be cheap radios that can pickup digital TV sound like there is now for analog.

    During the recent long power outage in New Hampshire, we found it very useful to have a little radio that picked up TV sound. The coverage of the emergency seemed to be better on TV than radio.

    Radios like that will soon be less useful.

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:39PM (#26378679)
    Publicity-starved WZMY Derry-Boston (MyTV affil) shut down their analog signal on 50 on Dec. 1 to what seems to be no ill effects. They ran their station in "nightlight mode" (Lowering power with a loop saying to effect "This used to be the analog signal of WZMY Derry... we've moved to digital." WFXT Boston met a little less happier fate. Their analog transmitter had been malfuctioning, and in Mid-December they gave up on it. With two months then to redeploy, the bean counters just wouldn't go with a project to revive the analog signal, so they're all-digital ready or not. Some stations are set to receive upgrades when the analog services go away. For example, WHDH-DT is off in UHF neverland, but once the analog WHDH 7 goes away, WHDH-DT gets the 7 slot not just on the logical dial, but also the physical frequency space.
  • TV in Los Angeles (Score:5, Interesting)

    by $lingBlade (249591) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:42PM (#26378723)

    I can't speak for everywhere obviously, but here in Los Angeles pulling the plug on the analog transmissions is a big big deal. Not just because of Southern California's population but because of it's LATINO population.

    I work in this industry for a Low Power Analog TV station (one that broadcasts on 4 different stations locally and a bunch more across the country). And the transition represents about 80% of my workload lately (I do broadcast engineering and IT).

    But back on point, a LOT and I mean like hundreds of thousands of Latino families in the area rely on OTA transmissions. When you pull their plug, you might say "great, now they can go outside, read a book, etc" but in reality they're not tuned in. So that means advertising revenue dries up for the station (as it has for ours and almost every other that caters to the Latino community as well as mainstream tv programming). That means more layoffs and so on down the line.

    Speaking for my company and other smaller players this delay is a good thing. Eventually the analog stations will go away and that's fine and eventually the low power guys like myself will have a concrete deadline too, and that's fine as well. Just remember though, millions have cable, direcTV, Dish, etc but there are still MORE than a few out there that really rely on plain vanilla over the air TV broadcast.

    • There's a lot of warning for the upcoming switch. It's not like OTA is being pulled, it's being shifted.

      If you let people slide another few years, people will simply not be ready the NEXT time the switch comes along. People will never be ready, so you have to actually be ready to make the switch against some resistance and then people will be motivated to actually switch.

      People are highly motivated to get TV, and so I don't think the switch will have as much power over even the poor as you think it will.

    • Re:TV in Los Angeles (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NuttyBee (90438) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:47PM (#26379583)

      I can't speak for everyone, but --. I've been working on some facet of DTV for the better part of 10 years. My most recent project has been for a large cable/satellite TV provider to ensure they are transition ready. I can assure you, although there will likely be minor glitches in the 24-48 hours after the switch, I expect nearly everything to be operating normally on satellite and cable. (Even in cases where the broadcaster has changed channels, gone from UHF to VHF, or even changed transmitter locations.)

      Over the Air: We're already on our second postponement. The spectrum has already been sold off, we are on borrowed time. Analog TV transmitters are on their last legs, they need to go away. I remember my first OTA 8-VSB receiver, was a DirecTV receiver, it was $700+ and worked poorly. Today, I am the proud owner of an Insignia brand $60 converter that I paid $20 for and will lock onto signals the original DirecTV receiver would never get. I got my coupon when it was initially offered, a little less than a year ago. (Early bird gets the worm) My locals have never looked so good with my $20 converter and $7 antenna.

      I am so sick of seeing DTV transition soft-tests and PSAs about the pending transition that I can't wait for it to be over. It's not like you didn't have time to get your stuff in order.

      Worst case scenario: On February 17th, you have to pay the full price for the box. $60 instead of $20, because you didn't pay attention. I got a parking ticket recently, I put money in the wrong meter. I was fined $30 because I failed to pay attention.

      The boxes exist and are plentiful, if you didn't pay attention and get your free coupon when they had money for them - oh well. That isn't the fault of the Federal Government.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Yeah, and I can tell you about cases of people buying boxes, and then trying different antennas, and not being able to get reliable service. They live 20-30 miles from the transmitter. Analog's fine. There are a bunch of densely populated communities in the Northeast that fall into this category. It's not just people who didn't pay attention, it's also people who have tried multiple types of antennas trying to get any stable signal, and can't. And they live places where they can't use roof antennas for one

  • by Bryce (1842) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @07:38PM (#26380211) Homepage
    "Breaking" everyone's analog TV is going to be controversial enough. But to time it to happen right after a new president is inaugurated? Forget that this changeover has been in the works forever, who is Joe Blow going to blame? I don't blame the Obama administration for wanting to postpone it a bit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gooman (709147)

      I agree that that is probably the main reason for wanting a delay. If it is, it smacks of cowardice, not leadership.
      Metric was too hard for Americans to learn in the 70's so Carter backed off that.
      Let's just admit that sometimes change is painful.
      Why so much fear of the future and progress?
      Stop pandering to the stupid, lets move forward.

  • digital tv switch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KimmoS (1448215) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:03PM (#26381061)
    Here in Finland the switch was made in Sep. 2007 for terrestrial broadcasting and cable television Feb. 2008. The rest of the EU member states are expected to stop analogue television transmissions by 2012. Wasn't such a big deal... many people actually are still refusing to buy the convertor box after being able to notice a dramatic improvement in their quality of life.
  • by knorthern knight (513660) on Friday January 09, 2009 @04:19AM (#26383833)

    ...is because he's afraid people won't be able to watch his infomercials during the 2012 election campaign.

  • by MemoryDragon (544441) on Friday January 09, 2009 @06:24AM (#26384399)

    Well here in the EU we are almost done with the switch. I am not sure if there are any regions anymore which are still analog.
    It worked out pretty much without flaws.
    People on cable basically didnt have to switch, a load of people have satellite receivers those did not have to switch either and many of them already were digital only anyway. That left out around 20% of the population with antennas. Those could get a 30$ refund on the converter boxes. And since the cheaper boxes were around that price it was basically getting such a box for free if you opted for the lowest possible option!
    There were almost no complaints in the switch and there was a load of advertisement on TV on how to switch, so the rollout was more or less flawless!

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