The Digital TV Transition: Remember, it's Only TV

by Phil Kehres

Thank God we have an extra four months to prepare for the digi-pocalypse. Because apparently, the last two years of being bludgeoned with cheesy commercials and billboard ads weren’t enough to get people off their couches and into an electronics store to get their digital converter boxes. Another four months should clear everything up. Right.

These four months won’t change anything. The extension is arbitrary and irrelevant. We can (and apparently will) debate the issues and legislation and logistics involved in the digital television (DTV) transition all we want, but there’s a more fundamental issue people need to understand: it’s just TV. It’s not like we’re forcing everyone to convert from gas stoves to electric stoves. People aren’t being forced to buy expensive equipment to keep their hot water source. This is not a matter of life and death. If you get left behind in the DTV transition, you lose your TV — not a vital utility or life necessity. The hullabaloo over the transition is, frankly, absurd. It’s as if we’re all supposed to be preparing for a nuclear war.

Now, this probably comes off as more than a little cynical. I am fortunate enough to own a digital-ready TV, and I understand there are many Americans who can’t afford this luxury. I mean no disrespect to them, but the fact is that’s exactly it — television is and always has been a luxury. Some would argue that living without television deprives people of their primary source of information. Last I checked, however, newspapers are still being printed (at least in the short term) and provide a higher quality news product than TV ever has. Furthermore, the government has given out vouchers that allow people to buy digital converters for next to nothing, and millions of these have gone unused thus far. If the transition is such an urgent matter, what is stopping people from simply going to the store and getting a converter? Some would argue that the Bush administration failed to adequately inform the citizenry of the details of the transition and that certain groups of people, like the elderly, just don’t know what to do. Here’s the thing. I’d bet that most elderly people have a family member who has seen the constant barrage of advertisements and could help figure things out. Some people will cry foul on behalf of elderly folk that have no one to turn to for help. But please, take an honest look at the situation. No one will go without food or water if they don’t convert to DTV. No one will die. Simply put, it is not that critical.

The entire issue has been blown out of proportion. It seems that the only real obstacle to the transition is fear of change. Some people want nothing more than to see the status quo for as long as they live regardless of how much change benefits the greater good. But things do change. The earth revolves, the sun rises and sets, seasons turn.

It’s only TV, people. Deal with it.

(Editor's Note: As of the filing of this piece, President Barack Obama has not officially signed the delay. However, Congress moved the legislation quickly at his request and the official signing is expected soon.)

(Phil Kehres also is the co-author of Excuse Me, Is This Your Blog?)

(The graphic is from radicalgraphics.org, which offers its material for free.)

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James Ramey said...

I would only like to add that the way the feds ran the program was crap from the start, and just elaborating on what you said, so many of those coupons went unused because people signed up for two because two free anything from the government is way better than one free thing, and "smart" Americans didn't realize that they only needed one for their one tv. Boom - ultra waste of money.

randite said...

I wonder what will happen to the funding that is being held in reserve for all the folks who snagged two coupons but used only one. The feds are claiming the program's bankrupt, but their balance sheet accounts for the unused coupons. Come June, will the unused funds go towards more coupons, a tax rebate, a free chicken in every pot?

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