Editorial: DTV Switch Delay Needs to Happen

Jan 11, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Barack Obama may not be president yet, but he showed the kind of leadership the media industry needs last week by asking for a delay of the planned Feb. 17 switch to all-digital television broadcast signals. The current administration should heed his call and put the brakes on the DTV switch.
Once that’s done, President Obama should clarify who, exactly, is responsible for making sure the transition goes off without a hitch. That means setting a goal of no TV viewers being left behind.
The stakes for audiences and the industry are too high for the country to push forward with the DTV switch on the current schedule. As of Dec. 19, 7.8 million U.S. households, or 6.8% of total TV households, were totally unprepared, according to the Nielson Co.
While those numbers certainly will decline as procrastinators prepare for the DTV switch, the figures still are frightening.
The industry and government need to ask themselves how many lost viewers they are comfortable with. If the answer is anywhere north of zero, they need to take a hard look in the mirror and demand more from themselves.
In the most vulnerable areas of the country, viewers unprepared for the DTV switch could be cut off from a key source of news and emergency information.
A bungled DTV switch also could drive more viewers to other forms of media at a time when ratings erosion is affecting the ability of stations to pay for compelling programming that will keep them out of a downward spiral of viewership and advertising revenue.
Important stakeholders in the process are split over whether to go forward with the DTV switchover as scheduled. Last week, Consumers Union urged legislators to delay the switch.
That drew a response from the Consumer Electronics Association, which said the switch could go forward. Federal legislators, and even leaders at the Federal Communications Commission, can’t agree whether the Feb. 17 deadline should hold.
It’s no surprise that the Feb. 17 date is generating conflict. After all, the event was poorly scheduled, taking place in the months after an election and hot on the heels of the presidential inauguration. But that bad timing isn’t the root cause of the trouble. Rather, no one was made ultimately accountable for the success of the switch.
The real problem is that no one person was tasked with making sure the switch to DTV will be a success.
President-elect Obama has a chance to correct that error, appoint a DTV czar and help keep millions of Americans from losing their signals.


  1. Asking for yet another delay is showing leadership? That is not leadership. Leadership would be to encourage citizens to take personal responsibility.
    I am sorry, but TV is not a necessity and is not a right. Those who got the coupons should be thankful they received a handout at all. The government didn’t buy everyone a TV to start with, why should they be in the TV buying business now?

  2. In actual fact-with the funds ending-not the consumers fault-it should be delayed….but only if funds are going to be available for the coupons.If all funds are used,then what difference will it make?Those without will still be without.

  3. Among all of the other pigging out at the public trough in 2008, I will remember it getting its weirdest as the year the government (I still haven’t gotten used to this) *paid us to continue watching tv*. If the remaining households can’t pay the five or ten dollars (which is what the remaining converter boxes will be blown out of the stores for after the digital switchover):
    Furthermore, someone who really can’t afford an additional 40 bucks for a one-time purchase of an over-the-air converter box isn’t likely to sign up for (dish network/satellite tv/fastwide computer hookup/whatever else you could name here) as a thrifty alternative.
    A goal of ‘no TV viewers left behind’ does not have the same ring as ‘no Child Left Behind’. However, it still may be useful enough to drain billions of reichmarks–er, taxpayer dollars, I mean– out to the booboisie by the end of today, accompanied by the sound of gleeful oinks.

  4. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. 🙂

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