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Confusion Reigns As Analog TV Begins Shutdown 434

Posted by kdawson
from the how-not-to-do-it dept.
As TV stations across the country switch off their analog signals, uncertainty reigns. Some 691 stations will have converted to digital broadcasting by midnight tonight (some interpreted the mandate as going digital by Feb. 17, not during Feb. 17, and shut down yesterday). This represents about a third of TV broadcasters nationwide. No one can say how many of the estimated 5.8 million households unready for the transition are in areas served by the stations that are switching now. The FCC added to the uncertainty by imposing extra conditions, making it unclear until last Friday exactly which stations would be switching at the beginning of the transition period. The article quotes a former analyst at Barclays Capital who said the whole process has been "botched politically."
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Confusion Reigns As Analog TV Begins Shutdown

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  • by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:49PM (#26894163)

    Hmmm, my programming source [tvnzb.com] still seems to be up.

  • Once again... BFD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by javelinco (652113) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:49PM (#26894165) Journal
    Why the heck are we getting a story posted on this almost daily? Who cares? I've read the threads, and it's not a big deal. Anyone with half a brain will be fine. Anyone else, well, maybe there are survival of the fittest selection standards still hitting us, on occasion. I don't see that as a bad thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chabo (880571)

      I don't see why the deadline had to be pushed back any further. Even if it did, I don't see any reason why the deadline became a "dead-range". It should've been all-or-nothing, and that's what it was intended to be.

      • Re:Once again... BFD (Score:5, Informative)

        by bcong (1125705) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:58PM (#26894321)
        The idea behind pushing back the deadline was so that the current coupons(which were all given out) had time to expire. They could then create new coupons so people who missed out the first time could get a chance at a coupon, and thus their free converter. Or that's how I read it.
        • by hurfy (735314) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:18PM (#26895517)

          Even tho that has nothing to do with reality?

          If they didn't get one yet, they are screwed anyway...well unless the CW was the only* station here that you wanted to receive tomorrow! Can even the half-brains watch that station and only that station all day ?!?

          I am confused as to why they made it more confusing.....

          *Disregarding Ion television which appears to be on a low-power transmitter.

        • by Dallas Caley (1262692) * <dallascaley@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:31PM (#26895689) Homepage Journal

          Seriously, we've got more important things to worry about in this country that weather people can watch their soaps on channel 4. Why are we wasting money on this.

          Here's a wake up call to all those who are watching regular TV and can't afford to get a box. Perhaps they should stop watching so much TV and get a real job

          • by edittard (805475) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:37PM (#26895747)

            Perhaps they should stop watching so much TV and get a real job

            I'm a television monitor/researcher, you insensitive clod!

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Forgetting about the elderly?

          • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @11:10PM (#26898201)
            Seriously, we've got more important things to worry about in this country that weather people can watch their soaps on channel 4. Why are we wasting money on this.

            Because it affects our most isolated and vulnerable populations. the elderly, the poor, and the disabled.

            Look around you.

            Find out where these people live.

            How these people live.

            Four hours spent on a rural bus run can be very educational.

            The third-rate nursing homes.

            The group homes and apartments built on barren agricultural lots five miles from the nearest traffic light.

            The tenant houses and run-down trailer parks you never gave a thought to.

            $90 a month as a personal allowance.

            Out of which will come your co-pays for therapy and drugs and blood work.

            Capped at perhaps $300/yr.

            Life-Line phone service at 10 cents a minute.

          • by nick.ian.k (987094) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:08AM (#26899339)

            Here's a wake up call to all those who are watching regular TV and can't afford to get a box. Perhaps they should stop watching so much TV and get a real job.

            Because anyone who can't work such a box into a tight budget obviously hasn't got a real job, right? Because your baseless judgement of other people's situations relative to your own just flat out reign supreme? Here's a wake up call to you and every last fake Libertarian shitbag who modded you insightful: yes, we know you've managed to obtain jobs just good enough to afford a few luxuries, not struggle vary hard, and yet, between all that exalted 80+ hours a week "real job" time, find time to bitch about the failings of the poor and lazy on Slashdot, and tip us off to the truth: you just robbed another lazy sad sack of a position, and if not for you, one more person could've bought the box already, or even cable, and done what you've done here.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by eleuthero (812560)
              rather than spreading vitriol, I think a good number of us are simply amazed that TV has become a necessity so much so that the government (and thereby each taxpayer) has to pay for us all to keep having it--last I checked, the trees and parks of the world still had kids playing in them.
          • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @02:45AM (#26899519)

            While I agree with the sentiment, the one serious counter-argument I'd give is that you need to ensure that people are able to receive public safety announcements. TV is much better than radio for dealing with severe weather, because being able to see the weather maps and storm tracks gives you a much better idea of what's going on. Going into tornado season in Oklahoma (where I grew up) without TV would make me a little uncomfortable.

            Recall that we (the people) give the broadcasters the right to use the airwaves in exchange for them providing public services: news, weather, and emergency announcements. We decided these things are important, so its important to make sure their accessible.

            But at the same time, this has been coming for a long time, people should have been able to figure it out by now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      But...but...but they might miss American Idol, The Bachelor or Dancing With The Stars!!!!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Why the heck are we getting a story posted on this almost daily? Who cares?

      WTF? This is like Y2K, except TV is actually important!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Niris (1443675)
      Survival of the fittest? Hrm. I find something funny in keeping a television signal in the home making someone more fit.
    • And then there are those of us who use cable and are unaffected anyway. Yep, our HDTVs will continue to get the crappy low-quality signal until we upgrade to Time Warner's "HD package"! Yay!

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @08:21PM (#26896735)

      Anyone else, well, maybe there are survival of the fittest selection standards still hitting us, on occasion.

      Yes! Those people who are too stupid to figure out how to get out TVs to work will instead resort to sexual activity for recreation, and are more likely to be too stupid to use birth control, and eventually...

      um... I think I see a problem here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ukemike (956477)

      Why the heck are we getting a story posted on this almost daily? Who cares? I've read the threads, and it's not a big deal. Anyone with half a brain will be fine. Anyone else, well, maybe there are survival of the fittest selection standards still hitting us, on occasion. I don't see that as a bad thing.

      Wrong. EVERYONE without exception will be fine. TV is not a life critical resource. It's not like they are upgrading the electricity and if you don't have the converter box yet then you might freeze to death tonight. This is the boob tube. We're talking about Survivor, Wheel of Fortune, and daytime soap operas.

      I'd say that the people most likely to thrive are those that don't bother with the so called "upgrade" and give up TV altogether. I'm one of those households that they are saying is "unpre

  • by dmomo (256005) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:51PM (#26894213) Homepage

    This is designed to get people off of their couch and out shopping!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mweather (1089505)
      But how will they know what to buy?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cayenne8 (626475)
      "This is designed to get people off of their couch and out shopping!"

      But, most people don't have money to buy anything....

      I do, however. I was at Sam's club the other day, and surprised to see one of the latest Samsung 52" LCD 120hz flatscreen tv's for like $1789 or thereabouts. Wow..that looked nice, and I need a nice tv for my bedroom. I'll hook it to my mythtv box I'm rebuilding.

      Hey..speaking of mythtv, I've got a question. I'm currently renting, and wanting to go do the mythtv client server route in

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by maino82 (851720)

        Hey..speaking of mythtv, I've got a question. I'm currently renting, and wanting to go do the mythtv client server route in the house. I was at this point (renting) hoping to avoid running cat5 all over the place. Can wireless work fast enough now for a myth client server system? For HD content? I've got my server with a HDHomerun pulling QAM off the cable, and ATSC over the air...

        I used wireless for awhile on a little frontend box that was away from the master backend and it worked fine for SD content. When I switched out my tuner to HD though I started getting some stuttering and then broke down and just decided to figure out how to run a twisted pair to the box. I was using wireless G at the time... don't know if N would be good enough to eliminate the stuttering, but it's possible it might.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by PIBM (588930)

          I've tried a N router with a 2x2 link, in the 130mbps reported connection speed, and I still got random stutter with 1080p content, but not with 720p. It might have been environmental issues reducing the bandwidth available, but it's not acceptable anyway.

          I ran 22 gb lines through my house :)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by PetriBORG (518266)
          I'm trying to do that exact same thing myself, but haven't been able to get it right. There are just so many neighbors running their own wifi that I think it is causing signal degradation.

          Also, the MythVideo plugin *does* not stream, so you have to share (via SMB or NFS) the directory between the Front and Back ends... This makes those sort of files play too slowly as well.

  • As I have said time and time again, this has been a gigantic clusterfuck of enormous proportions.

    1. The American public should have received a check (not a tax credit, not a credit card looking coupon, etc) for the total sale of the spectrum divided by every single citizen of this nation.

    2. When the TV was moved to digital, it should have been better than what was offered before. Yes, the quality is better (when you can receive the signal) but most of the time (even with good equipment) the signal doesn't c

    • by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:58PM (#26894339)

      1. I disagree - the amount per person is too small. It would be like one of those $1.60 checks you get in the mail for some class action settlement you'd rather not have been a member of.

      2 & 3. I'm sorry it didn't work out for you. For me, I got only a few fuzzy channels before with severe ghosting and now I have all the major networks, crystal clear with only occasional drop-outs. I almost never turned on broadcast TV before, and now the picture is good enough to watch hockey. I guess this is very much a YMMV situation.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Good enough to watch hockey?! Does it come with a gun to the back of your head too?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MightyYar (622222)

          LOL. I happen to like hockey :)

          I only used it as an example because it is one of the harder things to watch without a good picture.

      • by Toonol (1057698) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:13PM (#26895451)
        1. $13 billion in revenue; that would be around $100 per household. Not a huge amount, but not insignificant.

        2. Yes, YMMV. I get some channels with amazing reception now, and others are now unwatchable. Overall, I would rather have stayed with analog.
    • by afidel (530433) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:15PM (#26894599)
      The American public should have received a check (not a tax credit, not a credit card looking coupon, etc) for the total sale of the spectrum divided by every single citizen of this nation.

      How about NO, it costs a hell of a lot of money to print and distribute checks, better they just not charge me as much or give me more back on my rebate check. The cost of the 2008 rebate checks was $84M, personally I'd rather they save that cost and use the money to feed more poor kids or something.

      This was all unnecessary anyway. I don't care about opening up spectrum for other services when I am not directly benefiting in any way, shape or form by the change over.

      How about if your life gets save because first responders are able to talk to one another, is that good enough for you?
    • by Gizzmonic (412910) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:22PM (#26894701) Homepage Journal

      2. When the TV was moved to digital, it should have been better than what was offered before. Yes, the quality is better (when you can receive the signal) but most of the time (even with good equipment) the signal doesn't come in, you lose channels, and they randomly drop audio and video. At least with the old way, if it came in most of the way, I could still see and hear what was going on.

      This is the killer for me. Digital TV does not degrade gracefully. You can't get a low-res substitute if your signal starts going badly. And the use of 8VSB modulation means that stations *theoretically* can cover more distance with less power than COFDM, but it also means moving receivers are out of the question (goodbye Sony Watchman and car TV) and multipath interference (common in cities) can keep receivers from working properly.

      In the 50's and 60's, they were able to upgrade to color TV without breaking compatibility with existing black and white sets. Today, they broke compatibility and they've failed to offer enough to justify it.

      • by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:05PM (#26895337)

        Today, they broke compatibility and they've failed to offer enough to justify it.

        I disagree. The UHF spectrum was simply to valuable for society to continue to allow a few analog TV holdouts to continue squatting on some of the most valuable parts of the EM spectrum for free or minimal cost. Part of the reason why wireless services in the United States are so behind Europe, Japan, and even China is because there are lots of legacy squatters occupying prime pieces of EM spectrum real estate for peanut change. The EM spectrum rights should go to whomever is willing to pay the public the most for them, and nowadays that is wireless telecom companies such as Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint/Nextel not grandma with her Philco black and white analog TV that she has not upgraded since 1964. if the remaining analog TV users wanted to continue using the UHF spectrum, preventing the rest of us who are willing to pay from getting next gen wireless services, then they should have bid against the telecoms in the auction. Analog TV lost because other uses are worth more to more people, plain and simple.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TheSync (5291)

        And the use of 8VSB modulation means that stations *theoretically* can cover more distance with less power than COFDM, but it also means moving receivers are out of the question

        ATSC-M/H [wikipedia.org] has been developed to allow existing ATSC (8VSB) stations to also deliver signals to moving receivers (M/H means mobile/handheld). It basically throws a ton of FEC on the low-bitrate M/H signal.

  • Revolt (Score:5, Funny)

    by evil_aar0n (1001515) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:52PM (#26894239)

    Frankly, I see something like this - the disruption of TV - as one of very few events that could get people off their butts to do something about their government. Spy on their phone calls? Eh... Take away their American Idol? Riot in the streets.

    • Re:Revolt (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bfwebster (90513) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:01PM (#26894369) Homepage

      If you've never read it, go read "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster [emforster.de]. It was published 100 years ago and still remains remarkably relevant and prescient. ..bruce..

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Good point. Americans are likely to get extremely angry when [1] they can't watch TV, and [2] the price of gas breaks a psychological barrier, like $2. The problems?

      - What percentage of Americans receive their TV over the air?

      - Congress is currently experiencing approval ratings rivaling David Duke at the Million Man March, yet over 90% of the current Congress was re-elected. I voted 100% anti-incumbent this fall, and maybe Americans should wake the freak up and stop just voting party lines. Congress is wel

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RudeIota (1131331)

        Congress is currently experiencing approval ratings rivaling David Duke at the Million Man March

        I'd just like to point out that Congressional approval polls mean nothing.

        Approval ratings taken by random, national samplings will yield nothing but unresearched opinions based on shallow news coverage and your average person's limited understanding even what congress does. I doubt even 50% of the people polled even understand that Congress and Senate are part of the same government branch, let alone have a meaningful, formulated opinion based on actually performance.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Yeah, but imagine if this cut off TV AND backed up traffic. There'd be mobs with torches and pitchforks.
    • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @07:14PM (#26896173) Homepage Journal

      After this wonder demonstration of government incompetence I say let us let them manage our Health Care and Health Care records!

      At least we know they are demonstrably bad at most of what they do, so we won't have higher than normal expectations.

  • by castorvx (1424163) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:55PM (#26894295)
    Turn off your phones. Grandma is calling.
  • At the end of Jim Carrey's movie, The Cable Guy; all local TV is knocked out... and people start to find enjoyment by reading books, sitting down to dinner together and doing activities besides TV...

    You will NOT die if you don't watch Wheel of Fortune or your favorite soap opera...

  • ...somehow I think our society will survive the demise of analog TV broadcasting. In fact, it might actually be improved thereby.

    ObDisc: I currently have satellite TV and a large-screen HD TV. On the other hand, I watch very little TV -- maybe 2-3 shows/week, if that much. Most of the rest of the time, I have one of the 24-hour cable news channels on and the sound off -- sort of a big-screen RSS feed in my living room. ..bruce..

    • by mweather (1089505)

      I currently have satellite TV and a large-screen HD TV. On the other hand, I watch very little TV -- maybe 2-3 shows/week, if that much.

      Sounds like a waste of money. You should cancel the satellite and just rent from Amazon.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by KylePflug (898555)
        You sure the waste of money isn't that he is running a 50-inch rss-reader in his living room?
  • Honey... (Score:4, Funny)

    by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:00PM (#26894351)

    Honey, signal's out. Could ya give the betamax a kick?

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:01PM (#26894375)
    If grandma hasn't upgraded the old Philco black & white by now, she probably never will (until forced). As for the coupons, there was no reason they couldn't have extended the coupon program but still kept the original timeline.
  • "Across the country" Which country? My analog TV here in the UK is still working fine.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Curtman (556920) *

      My analog TV here in the UK is still working fine.

      All is well with my TV in Canada as well.. Hoorah for the commonwealth. :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tenco (773732)
        Germany already switched to digital TV between 2002 and 2008. Austria did this betweenn 2006 and 2007. And in Switzerland the switch was done in 2007. And I don't see why this is a big deal. If there's something which is a clusterfuck, it's analog TV transmission techology.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by MemoryDragon (544441)

          I agree here, I live in austria and the switchover was absolutely painless. We also hat a coupon system where everyone got a 70 Euro coupon or so, you could get the cheapest receivers exactly at that price. Benefits, in many areas the reception now is way better and cheap DVB-T sticks are basically now available in every supermarket.
          Downside, I have yet to see one, except that the national television station lost a lot of viewers (mostly older people were still watching air only, and those are in a huge deg

    • by eln (21727) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:21PM (#26894693) Homepage

      Well, since you're reading the news on an American website, and news of the digital TV switch has been all over American news for years, simple deductive reasoning would lead you to believe the country they're talking about is obviously Uzbekistan.

  • Although I was opposed to this delay let's look at what will occur as a result of PARTIAL digital conversion. Joe Sixpack has been oblivious to the conversion (even now). Partial conversion will mean that a few, but not all, of his favorite channels not be broadcasting in analog. He might now be convinced that it's time to do something. The downside it that he will probably complain to his Congress critters instead of getting a converter box. At least now he will be aware.

  • so what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:12PM (#26894547) Homepage

    I can't be the only one who just bought a DLP projector, hooked it up to an old computer, and configured it to boot to Hulu.com. With a bluetooth mouse, that's video on demand and zero need to get over-the-air broadcasts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      I can't be the only one who just bought a DLP projector, hooked it up to an old computer, and configured it to boot to Hulu.com.

      Considering that when I point my netboot parameters to hulu.com, I dont get any kind of operating system upload and cant find anything that will boot hulu.com... I tried for hours. there is no BOOTP or TFTP servers running at any of the addresses owned by hulu.com.

      Yes, you are in fact the only one who has.

      You have created an IT miracle and need to be on the face of time magazine

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Think five months for the transition is causing confusion? Try five years: the UK is in the process of doing exactly that. It started in 2007 and will not finish until 2012. In addition another, incompatible, type of digital TV will start to be rolled out from next year at the same time.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:38PM (#26894963) Homepage Journal

    Confusion Reigns As Analog TV Begins Shutdown

    But also

    As TV stations across the country switch off their analog signals, uncertainty reigns.

    Confusion. Uncertainty. Who reigns, and who is merely the figurehead, its strings pulled by the other?

    Personally, I vote (yeah right, as though we get to vote on this) for Confusion to reign. It evokes images of people running around with their hands up in the air, yelling hysterically. A Reign of Uncertainly merely makes me think of people grimacing, with their eyes darting back and forth.

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:49PM (#26895143)

    ...it was actually kind of entertaining. The station that stopped last night had some fun and went old-school. They announced the end of the broadcast day (for good), played the national anthem over patriotic images of the flag.

    After that, they put up the old Indian Head test pattern and audio tone for a couple of minutes. At the stroke of midnight, it cut to static. It was just like nightly sign-offs when I was a little kid, and it almost made me misty-eyed.

    The one that went out this afternoon showed a bunch of snippets from the past 50 years, then they showed a live coverage of one of their engineers out in the transmitter shack pushing the "OFF" button. The instant cut to static was good for a laugh.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      After that, they put up the old Indian Head test pattern and audio tone for a couple of minutes. At the stroke of midnight, it cut to static.

      Everything OK at your place? Chairs not stacking themselves? Little girls not sliding across the kitchen? Kids not getting eaten by trees?

      My thoughts are with you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      >>>The station that stopped last night had some fun and went old-school.

      I too watched my stations switch-off their analog, but it was anticlimatic. PBS33 in Harrisburg simply turned-off their transmitter during the mid-morning. FOX45 in Baltimore blanked-out for half a minute, and then started playing a 5-minute loop explaining how to buy and hookup a DTV box. CW15 in York displayed a 30-second card that said, "We will now be ending our analog broadcast and transitioning to full digital." I'm

  • Bender said it best (Score:4, Informative)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:13PM (#26895455)
    "Have You Ever Tried Simply Turning off the TV, Sitting down with Your Children, and Hitting Them?"

    Me thinks we will either have either a surge in domestic violence rates or a surge in birth rates as a result of this switchover. When you think about, TV is probably the most effective birth control device known to man... all the countries with high per-capita television ownership also have low birth rates.

  • Botched? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DannyO152 (544940) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:18PM (#26895523)

    Who with any perceptive acuity and fundamental understanding of economics thought that everyone would pay more to continue to see free television? Especially when the recession train was in sight?

    The Congress and FCC? Well, there you go.

  • by theurge14 (820596) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:53PM (#26895937)

    Over 12 months of wall-to-wall "PLEASE UPGRADE YOUR TELEVISION BY FEBRUARY 17, 2009!" covering the entire bottom of my screen.

    If you haven't seen that by now and made plans you deserve to have your TV dropped on your head.

  • by smchris (464899) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @07:10PM (#26896137)

    According to the spreadsheet that was compiled it looks like most or all their stations said "screw it" and converted en masse. Where I am, only a couple rerun stations went for it.

  • by Kazoo the Clown (644526) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @08:15PM (#26896693)
    Finance has crashed, housing has crashed, oil is crashing, retail is crashing, now here begins the media. Maybe now I can get some peace and quiet.
  • by tcgroat (666085) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @09:39PM (#26897477)
    Colorado PBS affiliate KBDI [kbdi.org] can't delay. Their analog transmitting antenna was badly damaged, and it's not worth the cost to fix it for a few more months' service even if they had the money (and like most PBS stations, they don't have much to spend). Besides that, repairs on that mountain really should wait until the weather improves--which isn't likely until May. Such is life when the antenna is at 11,500 feet!

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