Digital TV Delay Defeated in House


Ready or not, you may still have to switch from rabbit ears to digital TV on February 17. The Obama Administration has been trying to push back the deadline established in 2005 by Congress to June, and got it through the Senate, but yesterday the House failed to reach the two-thirds majority required by the limited-debate “special process” by which they were trying to speed it through. They’ll try again to pass the bill, which is supported by the National Association of Broadcasters, next week.

The delay was proposed because, basically, a lot of people aren’t ready for it (including, by Nielsen’s estimate, nearly 10 percent of black and Latino households). Congress budgeted a voucher system that would allow up to 4.3 million viewers to get a government-financed converter box — but 7.2 million people have applied for it. Plus, says Iowa State communications professor Jeff Blevins, the 2005 Congress expected “that many consumers would go out and buy new televisions, upgrading to flat screen HDTVs. The economic slump has dampened that expectation.” He adds that many cable companies have used the switch-date as an excuse to “upgrade” their service packages, which also “increases the cost of transition for consumers.”

Blevins understands the logic of the FCC digital standard program, which has been in the works for years. “You want all your broadcasters to use the same standard so there is some consistency,” he says. “But why not wait until there’s some consumer demand for that?” (Image via edub tv.)


This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 29, 2009

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