Sunday, October 21, 2007

Goodbye Analog TV...It's Expensive to Die

You remember how about two years ago, maybe less, we began to hear about high-definition television and radio? I remember thinking, "Oh that's cool. Too bad I can't afford the nifty high tech television required to receive the digital signals!" Well, evidently, we soon won't have a choice, but to be able to afford them. Yesterday, I was catching up on the news that I hadn't been able to read for a few days, and I came across this article and I thought, "Why do we not know about this?" and "Well, WHY do we not KNOW about this?!"
Apparently, come February 17, 2009 (that's only 16 months away for those who track these things) analog television will no longer be available. Ana-what, you ask?
Analog television is the fancy name for the type of television signal that we are used to receiving, the one you can get with just a good old-fashioned antenna. Shelly Palmer, President of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (the Emmy folks), breaks down the repercussions better than I can.

"What does this mean? It depends how you get your television:

Satellite Subscriber (DirecTV and Dish) -- these signals are already digital and you already have a digital set-top box that converts the signal so you can watch it on your old TV set. As of now, you will probably not notice a change and probably won't have to do anything.

Digital Cable & Telephone IPTV Subscribers (Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cablevision, Verizon, AT&T, etc.) -- same as above. You probably won't have to do anything different.

Analog Cable Subscribers -- The latest FCC rule, adopted on September 11, 2007, will allow continued access to local stations for cable customers (including those with standard analog cable service) following the transition to digital TV in 2009. This rule applies only to local television stations, not cable networks or premium cable channels and the rule expires in 2012. At that time, you will need digital cable or another solution.

Antenna-only Households -- if you use an antenna to receive your television signals and enjoy free over-the-air television, on February 17, 2009 you will have four options:

Option 1 - Obtain (either with a government issued voucher or with cash) a digital-to-analog (DA) for each of your existing NTSC (National Standards Television Committee) analog television sets. They should cost about $40 each.

What are NTSC analog television sets and how do you know if you have them? It's easy! If your TV has a picture tube there is a 99.9% probability that it is an analog TV. There are a few digital sets with picture tubes floating around and even a few HDTV sets with picture tubes. If you own one, you probably know you own one and you probably also know whether or not it has a digital tuner.

If you purchased a TV set after March 1, 2006 with a picture tube over 27" diagonal, it should have a built-in ATSC (Advanced Systems Television Committee) digital television tuner. This was an FCC rule, but it has not been properly policed. They have cracked down considerably this year.

Option 2 - Buy new ATSC digital compatible television. There are 18 formats of digital television and not all of them are HDTV (High Definition Television). Just to torture you -- all HDTV sets are digital, BUT all digital television sets are not HDTVs.

Option 3 - Call your local cable television company, local telephone company (if they offer television) or your favorite satellite provider and get set-top boxes for all the TV sets in your home you wish to watch past February 17, 2009.

Option 4 - Forget about television. Throw away the old sets and consume your media on your computer, phone, PDA and other alternative devices."

Aside from the fact that cable isn't even an option for many folks , whether due to finances or availability (Yes, believe it or not, there are still places in this country where cable isn't available), unless you bought one of those monster 27" televisions in the last year, millions of folks are just plain gonna either have to get a "license" to watch television, or shell out the bucks for a new set. So much for public airwaves. For millions of people, television is their primary available source for what's happening in the world, not to mention emergency announcements.

As a bonus, Palmer alludes to the very real, and disturbing, possibility of a government bail-out of the television industry, due to the projected loss in revenue when literally millions of viewers are cut off, overnight.

"If you like disaster scenarios, I have one for you. 2009 is not an election year and it is not an Olympic year. The end of analog TV is scheduled to occur in the middle of February Sweeps (the first television ratings book of the year). With millions of antenna-only households gone missing, what will the May Sweeps look like? No political cash, no Olympic cash and, due to missing antenna-only viewers, a measurable ratings decline in households that over-index to the four major networks. Ahhh -- your tax dollars at work."

Again I ask...why do we not know about this?


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