[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/01/27/digital.tv.transition.delay/art.tvwatch.gi.jpg caption="U.S. broadcasters were to begin transmitting their TV signals only in digital format on February 17."]
David Gewirtz | BIO
Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Publishing
Yesterday, Congress showed that it’s quite capable of having its cake and the glass half-empty, too. The mixed metaphor that is our United States House of Representatives approved the delay of the DTV transition to June, paving the way for President Obama to sign it into law.
Congress did manage to extend the "hard date" of the transition to June 12, 2009, but in the spirit of something resembling compromise, they left some gaping loopholes in the extension.
Here’s what they decided:
No, television stations are no longer required to turn off their analog transmissions on February 17. But they can, if they want. In fact, stations can make the transition at any time they wish between now and June 12.
This, of course, means that many citizens have gone from a defined drop-dead date for the end of analog television to a nobody-knows date when analog TV goes away. Never let it be said that the United States Congress can't help the average citizen feel more confident and secure.
Acting FCC Chairman Michael J. Copps said yesterday that 143 stations have already terminated analog service, and another 60 are planning on terminating service between now and February 17. Additionally, about 61 percent of full-power stations are already operating on digital frequencies.
What does this mean for viewers?
As I said last week, the DTV transition won't disrupt most viewers. Most of us get our television from cable, satellite, the Internet, or already have our HDTVs with converter boxes.
There are benefits, of course, to upgrading to DTV and wide-screen televisions. Those of us who had HDTV during the election got to see those spiffy extra side charts CNN displayed on the wide-screen broadcast. And who doesn't like a few extra pie charts on their screen? You can't have too many charts, I say.
But there will be disruption for those who aren't tech savvy enough, don't have the money, or haven't been lucky enough to get a coupon from the government for a converter box.
Fortunately, those disruptions probably won't all be on the same day, all over the country. But many people won't know when the change-over day will come (thanks to some ambiguity in Congress’ decision), so we'll probably have a few thousand surprises happening on a daily basis between now and June.
Ah, well. This, too, we shall survive.
Editor’s note: David Gewirtz is Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Magazines, including OutlookPower Magazine. He is a leading Presidential scholar specializing in White House email. He is a member of FBI InfraGard, the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley extension, a recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters.
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