2009-09-01 03:34 am (UTC)
Reply provided by a friend in the Media Bureau
DTV was a boondoggle, but (in my opinion) not quite the one your Vermont friend thinks. (I had ancestors who lived in Lyndonville, VT, by the way.)
>>the fact that, at last estimate, something like 40% of Americans, with or without the boxes, with or without new $400 antennae, are without any TV whatsoever now.>>
Sounds very wrong. All the data I’ve seen had the number of over-the-air (not cable, not satellite) households in this country at about 11% (about 12 mil households) before the transition to DTV. The numbers I’ve seen in the trade press have – now, after the transition -- about 1 to 1.5 million still with over-the-air and unable to get one or more of their accustomed channels. Incidentally, the transition seems, contrary to our expectations, NOT to have caused a lot of over-the-air households to pony up the extra money for cable or satellite.
>> The fact that, from what I've seen, the majority of those living in more rural areas who do in fact get the new DTV signals receive terrible sound and picture quality--sound cuts in and out, the signal freezes every two or three seconds, sometimes the whole thing dissolves into a half-cubist mishmash of colored boxes. At least with analogue TV, if the signal got weaker or came in halfway, it meant the picture got a little staticy, and there was louder white noise behind what you were trying to hear. Now there's just sound that becomes unintelligible because it frequently just stops, and pictures that even squinting doesn't clarify.>>
True, but into each life some rain must fall. I miss elevator operators, milk men, and doctors making house calls. Something was lost, and I’m sure a few people mourned, when we lost burlesque, vaudeville, the traveling circus, Chautauqua oratory, illuminated manuscripts, and cave paintings. But that’s progress. The good part of the whole transition is that over-the-air TV was used by so few people that it was a waste of spectrum. The TV spectrum became like a building that was once fully inhabited and useful but now has only one little old lady living in it. And the building occupies a full city block in midtown Manhattan, the most valuable real estate in the country. Time to move her out, sell the land to Donald Trump, and have him build a 60-storey office, condo, and park complex there. More jobs (building the new place and working in the built buildings), more tax revenues, more use of a resource. And with the money Trump pays us for the building permits, we can buy the little old lady Bernie Madoff’s penthouse on 64th street.
>> The fact that, for most people i knew, this really wasn't a problem at all, and didn't need to be fixed. I even know people who work for Emergency services, and they have never once said, "Thank God DTV is freeing up all this space so we can use our spectra more efficiently." (I use that example because I have heard that this was to be a benefit aside from greater access--more efficient use for emergency personnel). And if it really is such a pressing issue, and the upgrade was necessary, why isn't Canada doing the same? >>
The whole DTV crusade began circa 1985 because the over-the-air TV people saw cable taking away their viewers and the FCC began allocating more and more “TV spectrum” to cellular service. “We’ll have new and better TV” as a way for the networks (and remaining American TV manufacturers and their labor unions) to hold onto SOME of their spectrum. Once that potent coalition had convinced the FCC and Congress that we needed “new and better TV” (this was also back when Japan was going to take over the world and Japan had HiDef TV), all its proponents went back to sleep. To get progress started again, the proponents of “spectrum efficiency” (who were a few economists with zero political power) realized that the advantage of “new TV” was that it cold free up lots of TV spectrum. Especially UHF, which needed to skip 7 channels between each channel used for TV – a scandalous waste of spectrum, like having a building every seventh block in Manhattan. But the economists needed some important allies, to whom they would promise half the spectrum. Who better than Public Safety – you’re in favor of public safety, aren’t you? Especially after 9/11.
2009-09-01 03:43 am (UTC)
Re: Reply provided by a friend in the Media Bureau
I think John's most interesting point is that the big push began in the 1980s when over the air broadcasters were trying to claw back market share. By 2009, they had pretty well lost. The only thing that keeps them affluent is the must carry rules.
In the DC area, some people I know have lost one or two UHF channels but still have ended up with a lot more programming. We do see pixelization occasionally, but I personally have not found it to be troublesome. Even so, the pictures & sound are much better than before.
Given that there is no uproar in the media, I guessing that for every person who has much worse over-the-air television, there are several who get more programming and far better quality reception. The winners tend to be in urban areas, the losers tend to be in rural areas. If you look across all government programs, you will find that rural folks tend to win more often than they lose -- a lot of dollars flow from urban to rural areas. ($4 billion a year in telephone subsidies, for example.)