Stroke, Stroke, Stroke!

My guess is that most people will be relatively unaffected by the digital switch beyond getting, for the most part, a lot better TV pictures and more services to chose from.

I must concede that my experience with interference to DTV reception–in this case a SMATV system–and its jagged, blurred, almost impressionist collapses and wipes of pictures as the bits stumble over themselves was not a pleasant one, but I trust, fingers crossed, that that will not be a common occurrence.

Anyway, the vast majority of people don’t get their TV over the air anyway. And many of those who do either are buying, or will be buying, digital TV’s.

But one of the things that separates us from the countries who rule, and sometimes bludgeon, their people with an iron fist, is that we care, institutionaly, about the welfare of the individual. It’s hard to tell sometimes from the currrent state of some of those institutions, but this, too, shall pass.

So, even if it is only a million or two people who may need more help keeping their TV’s humming along, they deserve to get it. Those are likely to include the poor, elderly, minorities, rural viewers and those with special needs, and maybe a few people whose VCR’s (note I didn’t say DVR) are still flashing high noon.

One thing eveybody needs to do on the industry and government side is be more precise in the DTV education messages being sent out.

The low-power TV lobby is being treated as an obstructionist whiner by many in the industry for complaining about the imprecision of some of the PSA’s. That is because most of their members, who number in the thousands, aren’t going digital in February 2009, and that includes many Spanish-launguage affiliates targetting a minority population with a large number of over-the-air only members. It also includes some major network affiliates. And then there are the translator stations that retransmit full-power signals to rural areas.

CBA has a point. It may have waited too long to make it, and that may have been a political calculation. But for the big guys in the business to hammer CBA over a strategy CBA perceived was in its self-interest is a charge levied by a pot against a kettle. The situation now is that it is a complicated transition–not merely a branding campaign–and needs a more nuanced message than it is getting.

The National Telecommuniations & Information Administration should have made sure the DTV-to-analog converter boxes being subsidized by the government took care of low-powers, but it neglected to do so.. So, now, PSAs about the transition should make it clear that not all stations are switching and that not all boxes, in fact not many at the moment, pass through those analog signals. For their part, low powers should try to educate, rather than incite, their viewers. 

Everybody needs to be pulling on the oars in unison and in the same direction no matter how they feel about the person sitting next to them.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.