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04 April 2009

In Like A Lion Or Out Like A Lamb? Analysis Of Government Mandates: The Conversion To Digital Television == Came And Went! == And Will Come Again?

With Holy Week just around the corner I thought we would do a story not previously covered on F6 as I attempt to get back into the swing of things. I want to also take a moment and thank my loyal readers and new readers for bearing with me as I recovered from another health scare.

When the 17th of February rolled around people were still scurrying around looking for better deals on a digital converter box.
All the money for the 2 forty dollar coupons from the Federal Government dried up and Politicians were whining about the fact that 6.5 million Americans were not ready for the elimination of the traditional analog signal.

As the nation was preparing to be assimilated into the digital age, Congress passed legislation giving the analog service a four month reprieve in its termination. In doing so our Legislative Branch put the entire industry into shambles, as some stations and networks decided to cease analog operations due to budget constraints and others still are not ready to transfer over to only digital signals. The Public Broadcasting Service was afraid it would loose up to 22 million dollars over the course of the delay because people would not be annoyed by their pledge drives every 90 minutes for two weeks in a row every two months, and now incorporated into the show segments as a commercial. But at the same pointe they were one of the first to flip over to the digital transmitter locally.

Robert Enders stated, "The same companies that sold us TV’s that would quit working two years after we bought them are now selling us the boxes that are supposed to make them work again."

Here is a brief history:

1986: Broadcasters pitch HDTV prevents 1/3 airwaves allocation to public safety.
1990: HDTV is developed in the 1990’s. Everybody is excited.
1995: Digitized video allowed for 6x the amount of stuff into the same channel.
1996: Telecom Act was amended changing the fixed 2006 to 85% compliance.
Government gives away billions of dollars worth of spectrum to the networks
1998: Congress decides that analog signals should continue for 10 years.
Analog airwaves were sold @ auction to Verizon and AT&T for @ $19.2 billion.
2007: Even after the March deadline We kept buying Analog Tuned Televisions

The FCC even tried to protect consumers and provide information two years ago.

As of the 1st of March, 2007, all television receivers shipped in interstate commerce or imported into the United States must contain a digital tuner. In addition, effective 25th of May, 2007, the FCC required sellers of television receiving equipment that does not include a digital tuner to disclose at the point-of-sale that such devices include only an analog tuner, and therefore will require a digital-to-analog converter box to receive over-the-air broadcast television after the transition date. Retailers must inform consumers by prominently displaying the following text if they are selling TV equipment with only an analog tuner:

This television receiver has only an analog broadcast tuner and will require a converter box after February 17, 2009, to receive over-the-air broadcasts with an antenna because of the Nation’s transition to digital broadcasting. Analog-only TVs should continue to work as before with cable and satellite TV services, gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and similar products. For more information, call the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-225-5322 (TTY: 1-888-835-5322) or visit the Commission’s digital television website at: www.dtv.gov.
The addendum to Robert's statement above would be, That is how business is suppose to work, Society fosters a need and then said companies fulfill it; however due to manufacturing obsolescence and noted depreciation of time, the resolution while annoying, bring some to label this whole scenario, which is not the case, as consumer fraud.

For instance, As someone who has a long history of driving several Buick Le Sabre Sedans, I know that the steering column is going to fall apart by the time it reaches 165-180 thousand miles driven. I know that at 225,000 miles the car will roll over and die a horrible death shortly. The company knows this will happen too before the car leaves the plant. Is this fraud? No, it is manufacturer obsolescence.

The correction cost 150 dollars and involves taking the steering column apart applying a bonding agent to the three bolts and nuts, reattaching the assembly, and putting the car back in alignment. Fortunately my mechanic, Ward Stevens' Automotive @ 420 Glenn Avenue @ North Clinton Street Phone: 260-483-0642 (across from Rainbow Palace), didn't charge me for the alignment just the parts, initial work, and labor cost. So just like a $40 converter box to adjust for a three year old television, that originally cost half of the normal purchase price because they were just trying to get rid of them, one still invests in the car as well and deals with the small stuff, plus now you can find some awesome large screen steal prices at local garage/yard sales.

Even though I purchased the older car for $4,000 and I know what will happen to it throughout its remaining time of ownership, I just wish they would give us a manual the first time around for things to expect rather than finding out later it would a. help us budget out resources better and b. not have an angry consumer base when the incidents occur. It would also help the stupid people in this world if they would make you sign a disclaimer form saying that you read the caveat before your purchase was completed for more recent investments; but for those of us who have televisions that are 10-25 years old, this still wouldn't have helped, but it would be a starting pointe.

So where does all this Conversion to Digital Channels take us locally?

Well out of the 7 original broadcast channels in this area: three have switched completely over to digital; one is simulcasting on both digital and analog; and three, remain on an analog signal, for a total of 15 channels so far:
WANE 15 CBS = Simulcasting with 1 extra digital channel for Weather Radar
WPTA 21 ABC/INC = Conversion with 2 additional DCs CW Network, and Viper HD Radar
WISE 33 NBC /INC = Conversion with 2 additional DCs My Network Tv, and INC NOW
WFWA 39 PBS = Conversion with 3 additional DCs PBS Kids, Create, and News & Commentary
WINM 43 TCT = Analog will not convert until the 12th of June
W??? 45 3ABN = Analog or not able to receive signal
WFFT 55 FOX = Analog currently in phase two of three of construction of digital transmitter

Between the 16th of April through the 12th of June this will change, as the remaining 2/3 of local Broadcast Stations across the Nation are allowed to begin the Second Conversion to Digital Television, at any pointe.

There have already been some positive announcements from WFFT FOX 55 that they are actually going to be hosting a news broadcast in the late evening finally, as it was previously restricted back in the late 70's early 80's when they first came on the scene, in order to appease the other three mainstream affiliates. There is another rumor floating around that they will either do a noon broadcast, either in tandem to or in place of the 10P broadcast, but that has not been confirmed. They have hired 25 years plus, veteran news anchor Jim Blue, who most recently covered the news in Toledo, Ohio, to head the Newsroom and take WFFT into the next era of journalism and community coverage, beginning this month sometime. Now if they will just add a few more features to their line up of channels all will be well. [Hat Tip: Mitch Harper @ FWOB]

And that then leads us to the rub the other direction. The Networks of Indiana News Center, which operates the ABC and NBC affiliates, has gotten to plump for their own feathers and good taste. They need to streamline their channels back a bit in my opinion. They have some of the most handsome (sexy and well educated) reporters but the news anchors seem to trip over each other and put me to sleep or piss me off depending on which bias filter the particular anchor is using in their commentary or quips on the air.

The few times I have tried to watch their INC Now channel or My Network TV channel especially at night it has just been a rehash of all the previous news broadcast on an two hour loop for six hours or nothing but infomercials. Put on TV Land, or replay USA, or even MSNBC Network shows from earlier that evening. Create a Reporter Notebook or Commentary Panel or Segment Show by local reporters (not just your stations but everyone), but for goodness sake do something fresh and new. There is a lot of local talent that could be fostered and INC has the potential to do wonders for political and social discourse and community development on the additional channels. It is time for Fort Wayne to return back to its roots as a Production House City of Record and yet y'all are just squandering it on old news and which weather radar is better.

I want to know what y'all think. There are three questions at the end of this post please leave comments below or email them to me, and I will forward them along. I would also like to see the Public Access Channels to be broadcast out for those of us that don't have cable. I probably have more to add to this in a couple of days so check back on Wednesday!

Links: Government Websites [FCC] [DTV]
Cited: Fort Wayne Politics [10Jan09] [27Jan09]

Remember to also check out the
Calendar Overview from March-May for some really awesome events this month and next. Just scroll down to the picture of the Old Fort on the right and continue to read from there. Finally, in honour of Holy Week, whom ever thought a lamb could look so adorable laying down with a lion? Photo: Model, Adam Phebus, by Jeremy Kost

  • How has the Conversion to Digital Television gone so far for you?
  • What do you think of the local Fox affiliate finally adding a news broadcast?
  • What improvements would you suggest to the local television stations?


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thanks to the sacrifice of many the scourge of Dont Ask Dont Tell in the land of the free and home of the brave will be gone by the end of June!!!!