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Marianne Paskowski



Why Bug Congress for DTV Delay?

January 28, 2009 10:54 AM

With the delay of the digital transition from Feb. 17 to June 12 looking almost certain, there is one underlying reason to do it: The networks simply won’t risk another ratings drop during their new seasons and would rather wait until reruns air after the May sweeps.

The Senate voted unanimously for the delay on Monday and the measure awaits likely approval in the House. From there it hits President Barack Obama’s desk for approval to a delay he already has said he supports.

Where do you stand on delaying the DTV switch? Make your voice heard in TVWeek's online poll. Click here to take the survey.

The delay likely will strain the already tense relationship between the networks and their TV station affiliates. TV stations by and large want to pull the switch as planned, saying they will lose millions of dollars if they need to carry the digital and analog signals until June.

But what’s the big deal? Apparently TV stations who have already received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to switch to digital in February still plan to do just that, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Now that’s going to be interesting, depending on how many TV stations opt to do that, and in the process create real marketplace confusion.

That begs the question of whether those TV stations that have FCC approval should be allowed to switch to digital on Feb. 17.

You decide.

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Comments (19)

Andy S.:

"Apparently TV stations who have already received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to switch to digital in February still plan to do just that, regardless of the outcome of the vote."

Now you've confused me. "Approval"? I thought it was mandated that all stations HAD to make the switch by February 17. Now you say that some took the trouble to get permission to do what the law already told them they had to do.

It seems to me that the general state of confusion surrounding this switch is only being complicated by the prospect of a delay.

Marianne Paskowski:

Andy,
Some TV stations are doing the switch regardless, I read, because they have FCC approval. Interesting snag I read about in Ira T's news coverage up here from Washington.

Have no idea how this would work. Having said that, I'm still for the delay, let the kinks work out in June when nobody is watching.

m


Andy S.:

"Some TV stations are doing the switch regardless, I read, because they have FCC approval."

Regardless of what? For the last five years, the switchover date has been February 17, and as of today, it still is. Nothing official has been done yet to change that. Why would the FCC find it necessary to grant "approvals" for stations to follow the law....unless they were planning on changing it all along?

Imagine the IRS telling people that they have permission to pay their taxes on time. That's about how much sense it makes.

Marianne Paskowski:

Yo Andy,
Don't shoot the messenger here. Who knows what's going on at the FCC? We have an acting chairman, new dude coming, but some entities, I suspect have been doing some heavy lobbying here for the delay.

Clearly it's not the NAB or NCTA. It's the broadcast nets. This is untrod turf, have no idea what's going to happen, and neither does anyone else.

As I've always said, the broadcasters have been good citizens here, but something is amiss in the beltway.

m

Jason:

Hey M,
It didn't pass the House. It's going to change over as planned and just as well switch over now. The networks are better off having this happen when people want to watch them and are more likely to go out and get a box so they can watch their favorite shows. If this happens in June, people will simply not watch the networks like they already don't in the summer and by the fall, they'll be more likely to not care at all.
-J

Jason:

By the way M,
Most of the people in the poll you directed us to say its time to change now. As in 87% of them.

Marianne Paskowski:

Jason,
What an interesting point of view, to let the mistakes be aired during prime time, sweeps months.

BTW, it's true it didn't pass in the House today, but the House will revisit the bill next week.

Having said that, I wonder what's happening here. Forget about the coupons, availability of set top converters.

There is a larger force at work here, and I think, and I say think, it's the broadcast nets.

And I understand why, with the upfront ad sale market looming, lower ratings, fewer advertisers, and they really don't give a rat's ass about their TV station affiliates, I can't say I'm surprised.

Good to hear from you, m

P.S. And yes I saw the results of the poll.

David Cohen:

Wow ... what a mess.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi David,
I just read an AP report that the delay is dead and that the House might not bring it up again next week.

Doubt this is even on Obama's radar right now, although it does play into his broadband initiatives, such as they are.

m

Jason:

Hey M,
You're right on the advertising front of this. The networks are having a helluvah time finding advertisers these days. Cheaper commercial spots this spring for next season could lure some of them back into the field but ultimately I know the networks all really would love to get away from the affiliate model someday. If they could make as much money on it, they'd shove those eps online or on cable and it would be a done deal. With online, the nets can force you to watch the ads and the audience seems to remember the commercials a lot better too. I know I do. It's all changing very quick.

In other news, at home, I will no longer get Fox over the air with an antenna, whenever this switch carries over. The signals simply aren't strong enough to our home which is a good hour away from the tower. Perhaps they will improve once the switch happens, but I doubt it.

Good chatting,
J

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Jason,
Well, look at it this way, you're not missing much with Fox.

I really am coming to hate this issue. Years of planning and now this BS. Clearly it isn't working, it could. Thanks for keeping us all up to date on what's happening in your market.

Meanwhile, Comcast moved MSNBC from the analog to the digital signal here. I still have one TV set hooked to cable without the digital box just to see what's going on.
Best to your my pal....mp

Cruiser:

Yo, Blondie --

The government should simply extend the deadline without further comment, for the benefit of voters and taxpayers. Until the stations pay for the publicly owned spectrum that they've been using for free, just like truckers have to pay to use the public's highways, broadcasters don't have morally legitimate support for their demands to stay on the original transition schedule.

Cruisin not bruisin

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne,

Whatever the decision a;bout extending the deadline, don't forget that the problem is yet another hangover from eight years of Republican incompetent rule. Let Mitch McConnell apologize to the public for what happened.

Jeff

Marianne Paskowski:

Cruiser,
Think a moment, the TV stations have laid out a lot of capex running analog and digital for several years.

They thought the deal was to give up the analog signal in February 09. Understandably they feel screwed.

I understand where they come from, but don't agree.

You raise a good point, TV stations have had a free ride since their inception, decades, until the DTV transition.

Let's all remember who owns the TV spectrum and it is not broadcasters. m

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Jeff,
Well, the Bushies sure botched up a lot, including this, which now looks like small potatoes, compared to the bigger picture.

So far I really question what I'm hearing from the Obama team about building and creating jobs, including broadband. This needs to be fixed, yesterday. It didn't happen.

m

Andy S.:

"Don't shoot the messenger here."

Wouldn't dream of it. I know none of this is your fault, and I appreciate your efforts to keep us informed. I just get frustrated sometimes. You know how that is.

Keep up the good work.

Chi-town Mike:

Coming from a computer tech... This delay is for the best. Look at it this way if your company does an upgrade would you want it during the middle of the day or during off-peak hours? The summertime is like doing an upgrade on a Saturday morning. Plus from what I have been reading, there's not enough coupons going around out there so this seems to be for the best anyway. I'm sure many want this done and over with, but coming from MANY different upgrades that should have waited this one would not be an easy task to spin if it wasn't ready. Remember it's much easier to explain a delay, than an emergency rollback...

Marianne Paskowski:

Andy,
Well the messenger is following a moving target, this bill could wind up back in the house next week or not. Again, government confusion.And this is relatively simple stuff compared to Obama's new stimulus package...m

Marianne Paskowski:

Chi,
Well said and indeed analogous to a major corporation upgrading its computer network during the late night or on weekends.

Thanks for your common sense insight...m

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