By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 12:08 pm
If you’re reading these words, you’re all set for the end of over-the-air analog TV–you’ve got a reasonably modern TV and/or cable or satellite service. (Actually, some of you seem to be getting your TV over the Internet.) But there are those who aren’t ready for the planned February 17th switchover to digital transmissions–in part, it seems, because of screwups with the discount coupons for converter boxes. That’s why President Obama and other support an extension of analog service to June 12th, and why the Senate passed a bill approving the extension on Monday.
Today, however, the House of Representatives failed to fall in line: It didn’t pass the bill. Unless someone throws a hail-mary pass to extend the deadline through other means–and it sounds like that could still happen–some Americans will turn on their TVs come mid-February and find nothing but static.
I’ve been trying to figure out whether I’m in favor of the delay or not, and I’m still grappling with the issues. Over at ZDNet, my friend Sam Diaz makes a cogent argument in favor of just pulling the trigger on analog and moving on: There’s been tons of advance warning about the switchover, and some folks will fail to be ready even if you delayed the transition to 2019. And a delay would cost the broadcasting industry millions.
But the people who are still receiving analog TV are, almost by definition, the most helpless of TV watchers. They’re technophobes. Or people who watch very little TV but might need it in case of emergency. Or folks so poor that the fact they can’t get a $40 converter coupon is an obstacle.
I keep having these visions of my grandparents fiddling with their little portable TV and wondering why they can’t tune in Lawrence Welk, Gunsmoke, and the CBS Evening News. My grandma and grandpa have been gone a long time, but there are plenty of other grandparents out there, and some of them will be flummoxed by the transition.
Of course, you could make the argument that the best way to get stragglers on board is to deprive them of TV by completing the damn switchover: If analog broadcasts disappear on Feburary 17th, it’ll nudge some folks to head out to RadioShack and buy the coverter boxes they should have known about a long time ago.
Anyhow, I’m going to throw the decision in your lap while I continue to think about it. What’s your take?