Eye Opener: DTV Is Here!
Happy Friday! It's DTV Day, when Grandma may finally kick that old television to the curb as it becomes technologically obsolete. Though it's an important day for the television industry, it requires a coordinated government response from the FCC and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Privately, Obama administration officials boast they have done more in the last six months to close the digital TV gap than the Bush White House ever did. When President Obama took office earlier this year, 6.5 million television households were not ready for the big switch, compared to figures released this week suggesting 2.8 million households remain unprepared. Maybe it's because people took more notice as the first then new deadline approached. It's also still a big chunk of the American viewing audience on the verge of no access to "American Idol," "Law and Order" repeats and The Eye's personal favorite, "Entourage."
"At the end of this long-awaited and troubled transition, the government will have made $20 billion from the sale of the old analog airwaves, the telecommunications industry will be able to offer brand-new, high-speed wireless services, and public-safety officials will get access to airwaves for a new nationwide communications network," The Post's Kim Hart reports.
"Much of the government's education campaign focused on just getting consumers to buy converters boxes. Critics say officials waited too long to tell viewers that they will likely need a new antenna and will have to scan frequently for channels.
"More than one-third of the callers to the Federal Communications Commission's DTV call centers have cited reception problems."
So what will the government do?
FCC operators will be standing by all weekend at a Gettysburg, Pa. call center to address reception concerns and NTIA operators in Portland, Ore. will take calls for the coupons for digital converter boxes, expected to arrive within nine days of the initial call.
Together, the two agencies have distributed 59 million $40 coupons for converter boxes and will continue to do so through late July. They opened more than 600 walk-in centers providing in-person assistance, recruited neighborhood firefighters and AmeriCorps volunteers to help install converter boxes and made Gary Locke a radio and TV star.
The commerce secretary has worked a campaign-like media schedule, reminding Americans to call for coupons and check their rabbit ears ahead of today's switch. He's done everything from chat up Phoenix morning television anchors and radio hosts Tom Joyner and El Piolin. Thursday afternoon he even took his advocacy to BET's hit music show "106th and Park," hoping to convince younger cable viewers to make sure older relatives and neighbors are ready.
"The twice-delayed transition to all-digital television has been in the works for more than two decades and, when all is said and done, will have cost nearly $4 billion," Hart notes.
Will it all work? Pardon the pun, but ... Stay Tuned.
UPDATE: Reader Lowell3 makes an important point in the comments section below: "Entourage" (The Eye's favorite show) is a cable program, whereas the digital transition really only impacts broadcast stations. What's The Eye's favorite broadcast offering, you ask? "The Big Bang Theory."
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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