FCC Says Not So Fast To TV Stations' Itchy Switch Fingers

from the not-completely-surprising dept

The digital TV transition mess rolls on. After lots of TV stations said they planned to move ahead with the shutdown of their analog broadcasts, as the recently passed delay allows them to do, the FCC is now telling more than a quarter of them they can’t do so without first meeting a number of regulations. The FCC contends (PDF alert, thanks to Fat Tony for sending it in) that 123 stations’ plans to switch their analog signals off soon pose “a significant risk of substantial public harm,” not because people who haven’t figured out the switch was coming will miss Judge Judy and Wheel of Fortune, but because they need their TVs for access to “local news and public affairs.”

The regulations say that one station in the broadcasters’ metro areas must maintain analog service until at least the middle of April, but also that the stations must increase their “educational” programming about the switchover, and also provide both “local or toll-free telephone assistance, including engineering support” and “provide a location and staff for a consumer ‘walk-in’ center to assist consumers with applying for coupons and obtaining converter boxes, to demonstrate how to install converter boxes, to provide maps and lists of communities that maybe affected by coverage issues, and to serve as a redistribution point for consumers who are willing to donate coupons, converter boxes, televisions and for those in need of these items.”

If this didn’t involve the government, it would almost be remarkable. The government botched the converter coupon program, has caused more confusion with the delay, and now wants TV stations to set up call centers and walk-in locations to deal with it. What’s even more galling is that stations will be forced to toss resources at an issue that effects a small sliver of the population: take the small subset of Americans that watch TV, but don’t have cable or satellite, then the subset of those that haven’t yet gotten with the program. From those few people that are left standing, will they be any more ready in June than they would be on the 17th, when the switchover was supposed to happen? And why should broadcasters have to devote so many resources to them, particularly when it’s the bungled coupon program that’s largely to blame?

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: fcc

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “FCC Says Not So Fast To TV Stations' Itchy Switch Fingers”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

More jobs

Well, the government is trying to create more jobs. Of course, these positions will only last for six months like the rest of the stimulus money, talking of course of the portion that helps the economy not the huge cost to the poor inheritors of our country. Seriously, should we just send out technicians going door-to-door to provide and install converter boxes for every household. It looks like we are headed that way.

Dave Barnes (user link) says:

I for one don't care

I am well aware of the switch from A to D.
I also plan to do nothing about it until I have to.
I don’t care about $40 rebates on converter boxes as they appear to only cost $50 anyway.
After all my channels turn to static, then I will order a converter box using the interTubes and get on with my life.

The way this is all going, I fully expect ANOTHER delay past June.

twowords (profile) says:

More Government More Cr@p

As we can see the more the government gets involved with helping the enabling of stupidity by a small majority of people the maore cr@ptacular it becomes for the rest of us. Wilmington NC did the switch between 3-6 months ago and all is going ok there.Why do we continue to allow the assinine hand holding of some instead of forcing everyone to get with the program.These few in the help me all the time category need to be spayed and nuetered for the betterment of all.

what about the HOMLESS says:

the Homeless have no digital TV

About 3.5 million US residents (about 1% of the population), including 1.35 million children have no digital OR analog TV’s, what about THEM???

that is about half the total that are holding up the switchover, so shouldn’t we give them TV’s too, how will they know what the weather is (granted they are out in it but still)

I was homeless 7 months ago, guess what no one cared if I got to watch TV I’m screaming DISCRIMINATION…..

I want converter boxes for ALL the Homeless in America, it only fair right????

what ever happen to Majority rules?? the good of the many outweighs the needs of the few……

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

The frak?

…123 stations’ plans to switch their analog signals off soon pose “a significant risk of substantial public harm,” not because people who haven’t figured out the switch was coming will miss Judge Judy and Wheel of Fortune, but because they need their TVs for access to “local news and public affairs.”

Weird how I can pick out a Carlos article without looking, innit?

Sorry you haven’t gotten your broadcast HD, dude, but you’re frothing a bit at the corners of your scare quotes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Botched from the start

All the problems with the digital transition that are coming to roost now, are because the whole idea was wrong from the outset. Forcing a technological upgrade on people by legislative fiat is a flawed concept. Digital signals should have been allowed to coexist, and then the market could have progressed naturally, letting one succeed over the other.

The coupon program is botched, the delays are annoying, but it all comes back to the FCC (and, more fundamentally, the congress) trying to control things they can’t truly control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Botched from the start

And 15 years later we’d still have a large amount of the available spectrum being consumed by analog TV signals that VERY few people were using.

The legislative push was necessary or it would not have freed the spectrum over a very long time frame. Some people are still watching VHS cassettes regularly, but they are not limiting our switchover to BlueRay by doing so… that open spectrum will be used to improve first responder interoperability which is in all our best interests.

The FCC cannot just let stations in various areas make that decision to keep broadcasting analog or not, or new technologies designed for those RF bands will not function in those areas, making a much bigger mess than this analog switchover.

Jacob says:


I have 2 HD tv’s (1080p dlp & 720p lcd). I have no analog or digital ‘tv’ to either. HTCP/xbox for HD content, HTCP for 1080p, internet streaming, ect. I know I’m not the only one doing this. I hope they don’t count me as one of those statistics, lol.

Who watches the news anymore anyway? If I want video of ‘x’ accident or incident, youtube is there.

Anonymous Coward says:

I really don’t understand why we care so much about people not watching their TV? Why are we spending millions/billions of dollars on handing $40 coupons for converter boxes, marketing/advertising, etc…all so someone won’t get ticked off when Judge Judy isn’t on their TV anymore. It’s TV!!! Get over it.

This should be a time when people actually find the time to get off their butts and get outside in nature. Do something with their kids besides watching TV. Do some yardwork or go for a walk/run. Go visit friends. Do something healthier for you than watch TV.

Plus, I can’t imagine that people are going to lose their channels one day and then do nothing, and talk to no one, and inquiring as to why their TV doesn’t work. Within an hour they’ll talk to someone who knows why the TV doesn’t work and then they’ll take some action to make it work. Let’s spend our taxpayer dollars somewhere else useful. Maybe education or the environment.

Will Block says:

Digital signals NOT covering service area

Not so fast with that ‘only a sliver of the public is affected’.
I am in Northeast Ohio, about half way out from the Cleveland station tower locations to the periphery of their claimed service areas, and during any kind of poorer weather, two of the 4 major Cleveland-area stations cannot be received. During significant wind and precipitation events (aka thunderstorms or worse) I now suspect we will be unable to receive three of those 4.

That means that the weather warnings will be unreceivable.

I could care less about ‘Judge Judy’ or Oprah … I darn well sure care about being cut off from severe weather alerts.

Antennaweb.org basically says that my area will require a directional digital antenna with amplifier, and then good luck.

And I am far from the only person in my area who is seeing the same thing.


Petrified Jello says:

Re: Digital signals NOT covering service area

I darn well sure care about being cut off from severe weather alerts.
Apparently not, as anyone living in the country knows a radio signal, not television, is the way to go for weather reports.

I’m ashamed you would even bring this up as an argument regarding television signals, which don’t travel as far as analog radio waves.

Thanks for proving how the FCC is right about “converter” education.

Pudro says:

Easy fix

A TV station in Zanesville, Ohio got the OK to go digital-only months ago. Their analog transmitter broke, and it wasn’t worth it to them to fix it for the short time it would be in use. I would encourage all of those smaller market stations that don’t wish to carry the burden of the costs for four more months of analog broadcasts to let their analog transmitters “fail” (in a non-traceable way, of course). This kind of government abuse is exactly the kind of thing that justifies some subversive disobedience.

Petrified Jello says:

Stations should unite and fight back.

Here’s what every TV station should do until June:
Replace all programming with the education messages and run them 24/7 until either the new switch date or the FCC gives in.

Be sure to include a “contact phone number” to the FCC regarding why these people can’t watch their Judge Judy or Wheel of Fortune.

After all, education is important.

Now, if only the FCC and our government could be educated.

alternatives() says:

My solution

And unlike the ‘solution’ offered by marketing people – move to a city so you can get the signal – my solution is to not bother with the TV anymore.

It is a vast wasteland of marketing crap anyway – so if the marketers want to reach me they’ll have to get past the internet ad blocking.

Locally, the Sinclar stations claim they are going off air tomorrow – no tears if they get fined.

John Yeager says:

Digital transmition stinks

The digital system does not work well for many in the city. It works even less well in the countryside.

We were told all we need is an inexpensive converter box. That was a lie. I have tried five different antennas. This digital system does not work well at all.

Very little of the freed up spectrum went to first responders. Almost all of the spectrum went to the cell phone companies. America is NOT safer with an unreliable television system.

Many Americans have been shafted with the downgrade to digital.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...