Today Was Digital TV Transition Day
February 17, 2009 – the day when the US was scheduled to transition from analog to digital television broadcast.
President Obama signed into law the DTV Delay Act, which pushed the deadline for transition back until June 12th.
While I applauded Obama’s ability to get things done in a recent post, I am disappointed with this decision to delay.
A Delay For the Wrong Reasons
5.7% of US households (or 6.5 million homes) were unprepared for the digital TV transition as of January 22, 2008.
This lack of preparedness was chalked up to the suffering economy (as most things are). President Obama said in a statement, “Millions of Americans, including those in our most vulnerable communities, would have been left in the dark if the conversion had gone on as planned, and this solution is an important step forward as we work to get the nation ready for digital TV.”
I am compassionate about Americans “in our most vulnerable communities,” so I tried to understand what was the risk of leaving them “in the dark.” Would these people be unaware of emergency broadcasts? Not more than people who don’t own a TV by choice. Does owning a TV guarantee some privilege of free over-the-air basic programming? Clearly not.
How Americans Were Prepared For the Transition
Did you know that there is a DTV transition website?
Did you know that the federal government has been subsidizing $40 coupons for TV converter boxes that will enable viewers to keep their analog TVs? Up to 2 per household.
Did you know that a good digital converter box only costs $59.99?
The digital TV transition delay was based on uncertainty
Uncertainty over the reaction of that 5.7% of the US population. This was the wrong reason to delay, and the Obama administration knows it.
In fact, Obama today signed the $787 billion stimulus package, which includes $7.2 billion for broadband development.
Television is not dead yet, but broadband internet has clearly out-tracked television as a tool for communication, commerce, and short-form entertainment. Where television continues to dominate is long-form entertainment and high-definition content.
The role of television – as a broadcast mechanism – will continue to diminish over the next 10 years. Broadband Internet will become ever more important and will eventually be the source of high-quality long-form entertainment, as Hulu is demonstrating today. Therefore, the pain of transition to digital TV will be like pulling off a band-aid – temporary and necessary.
Do you agree that letting this digital TV transition deadline slip was a mistake?