As the mandatory crossover from analog to digital TV approaches, there is still some concern about the fate of those few holdouts who still get their TV the old-fashioned way, through over-the-air broadcasts. Unless they get a digital converter, they'll find themselves unable to get TV channels. Apparently, public television stations want to get converters out to their viewers, and may promote them through retail partnerships and as gifts during pledge drives. James Gattuso at the Technology Liberation Front sees a possibly sinister motive for the move: if people switch over to cable once they can no longer watch TV, they'll have more choices and will be less likely to watch public television. If this were indeed the intention, then the move would be shortsighted, since these stations would be better off making their content more appealing rather than hoping to limit viewer choice. But, there's probably a benign explanation. Public television stations aren't worried about people switching over to cable, they're worried about people not watching TV at all, which would have a much greater effect on their viewer numbers. It's hard to imagine that the pool of people who will subscribe to cable or satellite TV services because of the crossover is that great, and the number that will do so unless they get a free converter box from a PBS pledge drive is even smaller. Furthermore, public television stations have been building out their own digital offerings, so it's not as though they've been resisting the transition. Either way, this is an issue that effects a relatively small portion of TV viewers, so it probably won't have much of an impact on the stations. Update: James Gattuso has responded to this post in the comments, and states that his original post was simply based on the stated sentiments of public television executives, and not his own assessment of the situation. Apparently, the original article on the matter (which can't be linked to) suggests that stations could lose between 10-15% of their membership in the transition, although this number seems surprisingly high.
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