Digital TV Delayed? Update: Not So Much

The United States Senate yesterday voted to delay next month’s switchover from analog to digital television.  From “Information Week“:

Postponement of the nationwide transition from analog to digital TV broadcasting was virtually assured after the U.S. Senate Monday unanimously approved delaying the switch until June 12. With President Obama and the House of Representatives already signaling their approval of the delay, the measure should be settled this week.

Television stations have individually spent millions of dollars getting ready for this switch.  WJCT, where I have the most first-hand experience, I know fought for grants and raised money and bought and installed equipment only to occasionally find it obsolete almost before it went into the racks.  I’m sure hundreds of other stations had similar experiences.

If, as “Information Week” suggests, the delay happens, what will be the consequences?

I’d lay odds that most of us will not notice.  But those that do may be the least able to deal with the change.

Now granted, there are millions of people on a waiting list for coupons to purchase converter boxes for their analog TV sets.  But “Broadcast Engineering” reports that 62 percent of US households are served by cable television, and another 24 percent receive a digital signal via satellite.  That’s 86 percent of all households that don’t need a digital converter box at all.  Now certainly, that leaves millions of homes that still receive only free, over-the-air television.  What I don’t know is how many of those have already purchased their converter boxes, or how many of those outstanding requests are for 2nd televisions in a home … like our house would be.  We have one digital-ready television, and one old analog set, which we almost never watch.  Both are connected to satellite, so I haven’t bothered to try to get a converter for the old TV.

But as this video illustrates … I’m not the person they’re worried about.

According to the Information Week article, the analog spectrum has already been auctioned … to the tune of some $20 (b) billion dollars … with most going to two wireless companies and a portion set aside for public safety traffic.  It had been licensed to the nations’ TV stations free of charge.

For the stations, along with the money spent to switch to digital transmitters and production streams, is the cost of actually broadcasting their signals.  It takes only a fraction of the electricity to transmit a digital signal compared to an analog signal with the same coverage.

The delay, if it happens, will certainly help more people be able to watch television after the switch.  How many more a 4 month delay helps is certainly an open question.   The DTV switch has been coming for 5 years or so.  The senate has voted.  It still has to clear the house, be reconciled in conference, voted on again, and signed by President Obama.  In about 20 days.  And there are those little stimulus and economic recovery problems to be dealt with.

We’ll see.

Update: This will teach me not to watch C-SPAN.  The House yesterday defeated a companion bill to delay the DTV switch, so right now it appears that the February 17th date will stand.

Don’t touch that dial.



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