Hold everything, and strike Feb. 17 from your calendar. According to a number of concerned parties, the federal plan to change TV signals to all digital by that date isn't working. There's a bigger
question: What else will be postponed?
Right now, the Federal government program
of giving coupons to consumers
for converting their TVs from analog to digital signals is out of money.
Now a powerful congressman, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee's
telecom committee, is strongly considering a delay.
Consumers Union also wants a postponement, and even the incoming
Obama administration wants to put a halt to things.
What happened? Bad planning? The honest truth is that while many in the U.S. are technologically savvy, a bunch of other Americans aren't
in the game -- mostly because of personal financial issues that existed even before the current recession.
It was perhaps too easily assumed a digital TV changeover could be handled
smoothly, since any growing technology marketplace is usually accompanied by falling prices for equipment and service.
Now, it appears millions of U.S. television viewers will still be out
of the loop once Feb. 17 comes along. For public-minded broadcasters, that means those Americans can't be communicated to in case of emergency. (One wonders how many of those same homes also have
It comes down to leaving rural, low-income and elderly citizens in the dark --along with some kids as well, according to PBS officials, who are worried that too many
children only have access to "un-tethered" TV sets.
What we are talking about here is a chasm between the big shiny TV technological world and the reality that some people can ill afford
to go along with what the rest of the country is presumably doing.
There's a perception, for example, among certain quarters that a majority of U.S. TV owners have time-shifting
machines. That is not the case -- only 30% of U.S. TV households do, and some analysts believe that number won't grow to more than 50%.
Now, with a recession in our midst, many TV
households may be not only unable to buy DVRs, but to upgrade to simpler TV digital signal delivery.
This means a delay in long-term federal plans for an all-digital U.S. TV world.
And a struggling marketplace means other high-tech TV-related promises will be put off as well. Start guessing