by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
converters, digital tv, fcc, gao

Can The FCC Actually Manage The Switch To Digital TV?

from the one-would-hope dept

The debate over the shift from analog over-the-air TV to digital over-the-air TV has gone on for ages, but it's finally (fingers crossed) going to happen in 2009. This is important because it will free up a ton of useful spectrum that could be put to much better use. Even if it ends up costing billions, the overall benefit will certainly outweigh the cost of subsidized TV converters. Remember, that the transition really only impacts those who use over-the-air TV signals -- meaning those of you with cable or satellite or IPTV are basically unaffected by this move. Still, there are likely to be problems. The Government Accountability Office, one of the few government agencies who you can actually trust to be pretty honest in its assessment of things, is now warning that the FCC isn't prepared for the switch, noting that it doesn't seem to have much of a plan to educate people about the switch. The FCC claims that isn't the case at all (its response was apparently longer than the initial GAO report itself). And, perhaps the timing is a coincidence (somehow I doubt it), but right after the news of the GAO report came out, so did press reports about major retailers starting to stock up on converters. So, perhaps there is a plan after all...

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Buzz, Dec 12th, 2007 @ 8:06pm

    Ah, the "switch"

    I remember when friends poked fun at me thinking that I would be "forced" to buy an expensive HDTV (I also own a Wii, so that added to the jests). They apparently overlooked the fact that old TVs will be able to plug into converters. Ah, the technologically ignorant... ^_^

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Max Powers, Dec 12th, 2007 @ 8:43pm

    Easy to Promote

    A massive marketing campaign on regular over the air TV will get the word out with no problem. Only those living in the woods or in caves will miss out on the message.

    In the end, those who have TV's that don't work will find out too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2007 @ 9:45pm

    well they have been educating i've seen plenty of commercials on local channels which are usually the over the air one's warning about the switch

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Rick, Dec 12th, 2007 @ 9:52pm

    I've seen em

    Yea, I've seen the commercials multiple times in the past few months too. They're a little vague, sorta felt like they were 'preparing' the public for the change.

    There wasn't any information in the commercials about how to get converter boxes though. I assume there's another phase of commercials coming once they are in the stores.

    I'm sure the stores will gladly send us each about fifty circulars over the next year trying to convince us to use our 'coupons' at their individual stores too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    fuse5k, Dec 13th, 2007 @ 1:41am

    Its easy enough to win over even dumb consumers...
    The fact that if you buy a cheap set top box, you will be able to get more channels for free is a big draw for people really...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Gunnar, Dec 13th, 2007 @ 3:32am

    We get commercials warning of the switch and telling people they may need to upgrade their tvs where I work, which is confusing because we're on cable already.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Peet McKimmie (profile), Dec 13th, 2007 @ 3:42am


    I live in the UK, and have had over-the-air digital TV for more than three years now. It's fabulous.

    Later today I'll be nipping over to Maplin (UK equivalent of Radio Shack) to buy a £50 ($100) "barebones" digital PVR for a friend's Christmas present. That, plus any old ATA hard drive, will give them TiVo-like functionality and ad-skipping, with no subscriptions.

    Oh, wait, you Americans have "special interest groups" dedicated to preventing people from enjoying television, don't you? Forget I mentioned it. :-D

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2007 @ 4:30am

    Suck it you moron

    We've had OTA digital for years here in the go buy your crap TiVo wannabe equipment dumbass.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Dec 13th, 2007 @ 5:33am

    Lol #8 / #7

    You know Peet is right though AC #8.
    That would be the only reason for your outburst.
    Doesn't matter if we have or have not had it for years.
    There are groups that have been trying to prevent the progression of TV for just as long.
    Check out all the groups who have always been fighting the Sling Box. Just for one example.
    Peet really is right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    ehrichweiss, Dec 13th, 2007 @ 5:55am

    Re: Lol #8 / #7

    Actually, I've been one of the people trying to prevent it but not because I don't like change but because in the mid 1980's we had the EXACT same compatibility problems with HDTV that still haven't been resolved to this day. I know they seem to have worked out some of it but the fact that your TV/converter might not play all the channels, even after more than 20 years of "development", is simply asinine. NTSC, PAL, and SECAM are called standards for a reason, "HDTV" is the furthest thing from a standard that I can think of.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    rEdEyEz, Dec 13th, 2007 @ 7:05am

    For your enjoyment, courtesy of the BEEB

    ...can't wait until "they" levy a monthly "TV tax" so that I may enjoy the many benefits of television programming. Hah!

    Cost billions? - consumers maybe, but those billions are going into someone's coffers...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Oliver Wendell Jones, Dec 13th, 2007 @ 7:51am

    DTV is not the same as HDTV

    Those of you arguing about HDTV are completely missing the point. Although DTV and HDTV are only letter different, they're entirely separate issues. HDTV is High Definition TeleVision - DTV is Digital TeleVision. DTV is the replacement for the current analog over-the-air television that many people receive today.

    Starting Feb 19 of 2009, people still using rabbit ears or other antennas to receive their NON-HDTV signal will notice that they can no longer pick up the stations they're used to because they'll no longer be broadcasting a signal that their TV can receive and decode - they will need to obtain a digital -> analog converter box.

    The FCC is setting up a system where Americans will be able to obtain one free converter box per home.

    This only applies to people who receive their non-HDTV signal over the air! If you have cable, whether it's analog or digital, or a satellite dish, this will not affect you - yet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2007 @ 8:08am

    If the writers stay on strike, it really won't matter.

    Digital TV and HDTV are two different things. A regular TV will still pick up a HD feed, it just won't be in HD.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Ralph, Jan 10th, 2008 @ 5:47pm

    OTA Digital Signal

    Just a note the February 17th - 2009, final-cut-off-date" for "OTA" (Over-The-Air) Analog TV Broadcast is simply that... the ANALOG stations will disappear. If you are receiving DIGITAL signals OTA via your antenna, and your TV's ATSC tuner, you won't be affected other than losing those noisy analog channels. You won't need a converter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Mr Paranoid, Jan 21st, 2008 @ 9:46am

    what's in a converter box?

    It seems to be that with the switch to DTV/HDTV, the Nielson's ratings folks will be out of a job since all those digital signals have to come from somewhere and go to someplace. I'm not fearful of BIG BROTHER. Hell, at the current pace of technology, HE'LL never be able to keep up. But with all the fear of identity theft and privacry invasion, isn't this shift just another means for hackers, corporations(and government)to eavesdrop on what we watch, when we watch it, and for how long?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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