Friday, February 13, 2009

Bogus: The DTV Delay Becomes Reality...and Backfires...

Yesterday, the President signed the bill delaying the digital television transition from 17 February 2009 to 12 June 2009. You may recall my post from a couple of weeks ago talking about what a silly idea this would be.

Well, lo and behold, we're here. And I'm not just chuckling, I'm laughing my head off.

I know comparatively nothing about the stimulus plan. I understand little about many political issues deemed important to so many of us. But, I've been actively involved in the development of DTV here in the U.S. for the last dozen years, so I feel a little bit qualified to comment.

When I made my earlier post on 28 January, there were a few possible outcomes...
  • No delay of the DTV transition; having worked up to this for the last 22 years, sane heads would've realized that an extra four months would deliver little additional benefit
  • A delay of the DTV transition, with some portion of the stations planning to switch off on 2/17 taking advantage of the option to do so; this was a delicate trade-off between alienating advertisers & consumers versus having to throw an additional four months of money down the drain by continuing to simulcast
  • A delay of the DTV transition, with few or no stations turning off their analog transmissions prior to the revised deadline of 12 June
Honestly, I expected we'd get no delay. Folly, I know, but I was hoping against hope. Instead, we have yet another four months of foot-dragging--and we have nearly 700 stations planning to turn off their analog transmissions in the next week. True, most of the big market broadcasters will continue simulcasting through 6/12, but in those markets likely to be hit hardest by the lack of an analog signal, viewers will soon be out of luck.

Thus, on 2/17, many consumers in smaller markets will lose their analog signals due to the flawed economics of the four-month DTV delay, a 180-degree outcome from what the government thought they were championing. That's right--smaller market consumers will lose the most over the next four months, due to cessation of analog broadcast and a totally hosed coupon program.

That's what our legislators wasted so much time and effort for? Seriously?

Yeesh. As I suggested in my earlier post, Congress could've fixed the coupon program with emergency funding a couple of weeks ago, looked like heroes to the affected masses, and generally delivered a solid outcome. Instead, we're going to end up with stories of folks whose TVs go dark on 2/17, blaming the government for not doing enough.

Methinks they did too much.

1 comment:

  1. Respectfully, Congress could not have fixed the coupon program a couple of weeks ago. Look how long it took to pass a stimulus bill, much less obtain any new funds for the DTV coupon program months ago when this was first brought to light. (Stories abounded last summer on the coupon processing delays, and some anticipated that the budget would be exhausted before 021709.)

    In the end, even with more funding, the processing of the coupons has been slow.

    IMHO, the only way to get some folks to move would've been to stay the course and have customers react to the crisis, going down to their local Radio Shack or Best Buy to get a converter box (which, as I've seen) are plentiful. In this case, we've just allowed for several more months of procrastination.