More on US Digital TV Switchover

I mentioned a Reuters report in the States highlighting the lack of awareness and equipment in the lead-up to digital switchover in the US on 18 Feb 2009.
Today, US Today has a further piece on the issue, and it’s worth a mention for a couple of things.
First, there’s this quote:
“This scares me politically. There is no anger that comes close to the anger of an American that cannot get television,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said at a hearing last month.
A politician who really gets it. And secondly there this:
As of March, manufacturers must make new TVs digital-ready, even small, inexpensive sets.
That mandate, assuming “digital-ready” means built in digital decoders, is better than anything I’ve heard in the UK, where I can still buy plenty of cheap TVs that don’t have DTT in-built.
But you know, the more I read about this, the more worried I become. First of all, I’m amazed that a country the size of the US is attempting to make this transition in one go. No region by region changes as we’re getting in the UK. No test town like Whitehaven, from where learnings can be taken before larger areas are switched over.
Nope – the whole country having analogue switched off on 17 February 2009, with digital starting the next day.
And this is happening in the middle of February at the height of the TV season. That won’t affect TV ratings at all, will it?
And at least we in the UK have got an easily Googleable website – DigtalUK – which is full of advice on how to make the transition. I can find no equivalent website in the US, even though the overwhelming majority of Americans get to make the change before most Brits.
In the US, the department that’s responsible for the switchover is the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Their website is absolutely horrendous and makes very few allowances for consumers. Indeed, they seem to link to a third party Associate Press (sic) video to explain how digital converter boxes work!
I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt, and maybe it’s just that there’s a really obvious website that I’ve missed which doesn’t come top of the Google rankings in the UK (Google results are regionally adjusted), but I simply don’t believe that’s the case.
Instead, I suspect that nobody’s really considered those who are going to get left behind. We’re talking about the elderly, the poor, and minorities. These are the people for who every dollar counts and has to be accounted for. They’re the ones who are going to lose their TV. Politicians countrywide beware.
What a mess.


  1. Well I agree that I might be a mess. at the same time. It is natural media focus on the downside. Nothing else of magnitude happens. However, they could do more thorough reports. The DTV transition is really not rocket science. People will help each other to get their TV sets going. after all – most of us likes TV. But no one will miss analog TV.. really..

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