Well, today is the day that most TV stations will be switching over to a solely digital signal (if they haven’t done so already). So, I figured it’d be appropriate to talk about the politics of the tranistion.
First, if you’re looking for information about the transition and how it will affect you, you can check out www.dtv.gov, a website run by the Federal Communications Commission.
Personally, I think the forced transition to digital is an overstepping of the government. I personally don’t see the need for the government to do this, and I think the FCC has been deceptive to the American people in selling the DTV conversion.
In the FAQ, the FCC answer’s the question, “Why are we switching to DTV?” with an answer that seems like it’s the government doing great things for the American public:
An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for public safety communications (such as police, fire departments, and rescue squads). Also, some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).
Consumers also benefit because digital broadcasting allows stations to offer improved picture and sound quality, and digital is much more efficient than analog. For example, rather than being limited to providing one analog program, a broadcaster is able to offer a super sharp “high definition” (HD) digital program or multiple “standard definition” (SD) digital programs simultaneously through a process called “multicasting.” Multicasting allows broadcast stations to offer several channels of digital programming at the same time, using the same amount of spectrum required for one analog program. So, for example, while a station broadcasting in analog on channel 7 is only able to offer viewers one program, a station broadcasting in digital on channel 7 can offer viewers one digital program on channel 7-1, a second digital program on channel 7-2, a third digital program on channel 7-3, and so on. This means more programming choices for viewers. Further, DTV can provide interactive video and data services that are not possible with analog technology.
Now, all of that is true, but I find it deceptive the way that they organized that. They placed the public safety section at the top, when in actuality, only 4 channels (63, 64, 68, and 69) will be reassigned to police departments, fire departments, etc. Most of the analog spectrum has been sold off to companies such as AT&T or Verizon.
On the one hand, it’s great that the government is making some money by selling those frequencies, but think of how much money was spent on digital converters! Congress budgeted anywhere from $890 million to $1.5 billion. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find how much money the government is making off of the analog frequency sales, but they sure are spending a lot on converters.
But the biggest reason that I oppose the forced transition to digital is that I don’t see why the government should care. If they want to reallocate a few frequencies to public safety departments, that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of ALL analog television. I just see this as the government being more involved than it has to be, especially at a time when the government has more important things to worry about.
Personally, I would’ve liked to have used Canada’s original method – allow the markets to control who switches and when – if people like digital, the TV stations will respond to the demand. Unfortunately, even Canada gave in and will require most analog frequencies to stop broadcasting by August 31, 2011.
If you’d like to see the full legislation, a copy of the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 can be found here.
Again, if you need information about the DTV conversion, check out www.dtv.gov, and if you’d like to see what digital stations should be available in your area, check out the map feature here: http://www.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/.