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TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.

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Marianne Paskowski



Ready for the Digital Transition?

February 27, 2007 9:32 PM

Absolutely not. But come early 2009, broadcasters are required to swap their analog spectrum for digital, and that sobering news in slowly blipping up on the public’s radar screen. And they are not happy. But the ruling has merit, in part, to make more valuable spectrum available to first response emergency administrators.

But the details are now ever so slowly dribbling out to the masses about just what that might involve on their part. Today I got an unexpected phone call from a senior citizen who had just read, somewhere, about the ’09 transition. She’s an expanded basic cable subscriber with pretty old TV sets, and was infuriated with the prospect of spending $50 for a tuner so that she could keep her old TV sets.

It’s time for the heel draggers at the Federal Communications Commission, the regulatory agency supposedly in charge of the digital transition to take stock. To me, the deadline seems attainable if all the parts are in sync. But they are not. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee said heads will fly, if this important message is not soon coordinated, let alone made public. After all, consumers can ask for $40 coupons to get the converters to switch over their analog sets to digital. But do they know that? Absolutely not.

So I’m asking you all, broadcasters, cable operators and consumer electronics retailers how you are getting that message out your customers-who keep you in business?

And I’m also asking cable subscribers, who somehow find their way to my blog, if they are aware of any of these changes?

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Comments (9)

D'Shady1:

Correct me if I'm wrong about this but it was my understanding that the necessity of a converter box only affected people still getting their television over the airwaves. If you are like most people and have a cable subscription then the digital conversion wouldn't affect you or your televsion regardless of how old it, or you, are. Now since television is the contemporary "opiate of the masses" I expect that our elected officials will be very sensitive to the howls of pain coming from their constituents if they can't get their MTV or CourtTV or whatever their particular addiction may be. You watch Marianne. Congressmen will be falling all over themselves to make sure everybody will be able to see them on TV making sure programing will continue uninterrupted.

Marianne Paskowski:

D'Shady1

It's all very confusing and I'm glad Washington is starting to pay attention. Saw some related piece on how people bought HDTV sets assuming that because they paid a boatload they were seeing hi-def, when in fact they were not.

In fact I went to a Super Bowl party recently, a friend had just bought a set and the picture looked worse than regular cable. But he thought it was great. He didn't know he had to work with his cable company to get the right picture.

Guess whoever he bought it from was happy to see it move out the door.

Susan:

Since I have DirectTV, I figure that I don't have to worry about the set top boxes, but who knows... maybe I'm wrong. I only know about the digital transition since I'm in the cable industry, I attend sessions at CTPAA and read trade pubs where it's been explained. But it seems that education is in order for everyone... everyone who works at cable operators, everyone at retail, everyone at DBS providers (since customers will ask) and, ultimately, the public via an orderly plan the encompasses publicity, direct mail and all facets of a thorough information campaign regarding the transition.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Susan,

I've never seen anything so confusing. I assume that you as a DirecTV user would not have to worry about the transition. But who knows? Nobody is talking as a united group about what the hay this all means.

And then there's hi-def, already underway. I really feel for my Super Bowl friend who got hoodwinked. He's a smart guy, but he couldn't get through to his cable company, Time Warner, to ask the right questions. Hope he has by now.

Thanks for commenting,
Marianne

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne,

My recall of history might not be perfect, but as I remember, back in the 1980s when hi-def appeared feasible, on the horizon as the next really big thing, the US govt got all excited about championing R&D that would allow American manufacturers to beat Japanese electronics firms to the prize. The US eventually won, in part because the Japanese decided the money they'd earn from being first wasn't worth the hassle. So Americans worked hard at setting the hi-def standards, while the Japanese brands walk off with the sales.

Praise to the Japanese for not hyperventilating and letting private-sector sharpies bully government-funded R&D into a product that tekkies and newspaper columnists like, but the average viewer won't think is much of a big deal.

Enter those GOP pols and the wimps in the FCC dancing to the tune of the private-sector sharpies. You get some mandated tradeoff, with a big enough sop to broadcasters --- lots more free spectrum --- so no one who understands what's really happening dares to talk about it, lest they kill the golden goose.

With the Dems in charge, enter indignation and plenty of headlines---lots of smoke but precious little light--- as you point out. Beneficiaries of this game plan certainly don't include consumers, many of whom, as you also noted, wouldn't know hi-def anyway.

Jeff

Cruiser:

Yo Blondie,

I'm gonna have to pay more for these fancy sets, just so I can see the pimples on late night soft-porn actors?

Cruisin not bruisin

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Jeff,
You're right about the government going ape-shit to beat the Japanese on the consumer electronics front. Guess what we missed the boat. My only glimmer of hope here is for the government to make available very valuable spectrum that the broadcasters have hoarded to give to first responders.

Just remember 9/11, I lived there then, andhow nobody could talk to anybody, including NYYC police and firefighters. All to watch Donald Trump's bad hair day? This adminstration has a lot of work on its plate.

Marianne

Marianne Paskowski:

Oy, Cruiser,

Go to Blockbuster for the DVD's. We love you up here, but you are clueless.

Marianne

bil:

can someone post the us gov't address for the converter box coupons.....

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