Sunday, June 08, 2008

An Update on the Death of Free Television on 2/17/2009

Click here to see an interesting forum over at about the current state of digital television (non-)reception over the air. It seems I'm not the only one who has hooked up my government-subsidized converter box but failed to find a signal using my existing indoor antenna (my failed autoscan on a Magnavox TB 100MG9 converter is shown in the attached shot from this morning).
The Consumer Reports article is much more honest than the ads being run on local stations, which make it seem the box alone will solve your DTV conversion problems. After going through a fair amount of detail about adding the box and better outdoor antennas, the Consumer Reports blog post states,

Unfortunately, there's a chance no antenna will work for you. Recent reports indicate that some households are in fringe areas with poor reception, and for them, off-air digital TV might not be a good option.
In any case, start soon. If you encounter problems, there will be plenty of time to resolve them before next February so you're not left out in the cold.

Since I can't install an outdoor antenna (and weren't they beautiful when forests of them did top the rooftops of the nation back in the sixties and seventies??), I expect not to be watching television at this time next year (unless you count DVDs on a computer screen as TV), but I think it's going to be a shock for a lot of people who don't have cable. Plus, I'm only in my apartment for a handful of waking hours a day. I can live without television. There are millions of others who shouldn't have to.
I put my personal case forward in the comments to the Consumer Reports article and the only answer I got was that I would need to get cable, but not to worry because there are basic plans for broadcast-only channels at about $15/month and other plans for only $40/month. Who is really benefiting from this DTV transition if thousands of people who are not currently paying a penny to the cable/satellite corporations will now be forced to pay a minimum of $180 - $480 per year to those companies if they want to continue receiving the most basic television services? (And remember that even if you do have cable, that second or third or fourth TV without cable that you watch in the kitchen or garage will be dead on 2/17/2009.)
OK, it's hard to think of a constituency that is less well-connected politically (or electronically) than the people who have no access to television other than the waves that are coming to them for free through the air, and this group probably didn't come up in conversation when John McCain and Vicki Iseman were discussing the transition to digital television in her clients' private jets. Even though the televisions of the uncabled won't start going black until next February 17th, there's nothing to stop the rest of us from spreading the word now that this Death-of-Free-TV bill bears a very heavy imprint of John McCain's, and that it was passed in the Senate by a 51-50 vote, with tie-breaking vote number 51 belonging to Richard "Dick" Cheney and the other 50 yea votes belonging to Republicans too.

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