Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wait, Can They Do This?

I'm just one shade away from being one of those jerks who doesn't own a television and goes out of her way to drop this fact into casual conversation with friends who are supposed to be impressed because she abstains from mind-rotting boob tube; rather, I have a TV, but I don't have cable.

I knew I was in the minority, but I didn't realize that cable-less Americans were so rare that the government could declare that security concerns are more important than free entertainment. (I wouldn't watch "How I Met Your Mother" if I had to pay for it, dammit!)
Analog TVs will no longer receive a signal come Feb. 19, 2009, unless users update their hardware to receive a digital signal. ...

The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said it is setting aside $990 million to pay for the boxes. Each home can request up to two $40 coupons for a digital-to-analog converter box, which consumer electronics makers such as RCA and LG plan to produce. Prices for the box have not been determined, but industry and consumer groups have estimated they will run $50 to $75 each. ...

"The whole digital TV transition will enable public safety responders to have more spectrum for more operability and public safety uses," said Todd Sedmak, a spokesman for the telecommunications administration. ...

But consumer groups worry that poor and middle-class families, who can't afford to spring for a new television, will get left behind in the move and that the $40 vouchers won't be enough.

"How do you get it to the people who need it?" said Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America. "Has Congress set aside enough money to make sure everyone is held harmless? The answer is: probably not. Now you have a problem of certain consumers being hurt. They have a TV set that works today and won't work tomorrow and they have to spend money to make it work again."

I'm impressed (and thankful) that the government is recognizing that it's only fair to subsidize the cost of converting from analog to digital broadcasting if in fact the government is mandating that transition. I'm surprised about it, too, because I didn't think free television was considered an essential need worth being paid for by the state. Perhaps televisions can be construed as necessary because they broadcast essential safety information during emergencies. Do regulatory laws demand that the state provide coupons?

Can you think of any other reasons the federal government would be obligated to subsidize analog-to-digital TV converters?

2 comments:

Thinker said...

It is the economy. TV advertising keeps most of us buying, and that keeps business profits, employment and taxes up. The economy couldn't survive without the crowd catching abilities TV provides.

Rebecca C. Brown said...

That's what I considered, too, though if the feds were really interested in promoting television viewing, they'd let the broadcasters keep using the airways and they'd dictate that emergency service communications go digital. But I guess it's cheaper to give millions of homes $40 coupons than to reimburse local governments for the cost of all-digital communication systems.