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Analog TV

The first entry in my Kill It With Fire category makes a nice transition from my initial political focus. On Monday the US Senate voted in favor of delaying the cutover to DTV that was to occur in less than a month.[citation provided] This was an impossibly stupid thing to do. Let me walk you folks at the House of Representatives through the reasons so you don't end up looking like idiots (although I realize it will be too late by the time anyone reads this).

People are lazy

What more really needs to be said? The main reason millions haven't switched away from analog is because 3 weeks is actually seen as a fairly long time to anyone who doesn't have to deal with things at the scale of a government bureaucracy. Seriously, you should have fully expected millions not to do anything at all until February 17 rolled around, at which time you should have fully expected them to curse for 2 minutes at their TV, then pop over to Walmart and finally get a converter or a new TV they knew they should have gotten 3 months ago. Problem solved, in all of 42 minutes, for most Americans who still bother with broadcast TV.

More troubling is that the chuckle-heads in the Senate actually seem to think a delay will in any way change the behavior of procrastinators. You can pretty much bank on the above scenario playing itself out on June 12; all that you've accomplished is delaying the inevitable. Speaking of the inevitable, you need to realize that by pushing the window out until after tax time means that many people will simply plan to use their refund to make the purchase. You sure as hell better make certain those checks get out well before mid-June, and you'd do well to also include a little pamphlet to remind them once again about DTV.

TV stations suck

I don't know if there is some FCC mandate forcing them to act like idiots, but TV stations around here are only adding to the confusion. I've personally been watching DTV for over a year, but I also have an old analog TiVo I still use to grab overlapping broadcasts. Here are the two most annoying things I've seen in that time that need to stop.

Analog broadcasts labeled as DTV

Stop it, just stop it. One particular local station likes to start their news broadcast by saying it is in HDTV. The problem, of course, is that they make that same claim over their analog broadcast, which is neither high definition nor digital! I wonder how many people think they're getting digital signals because their TV says they are, but aren't and instead are completely unprepared for what is going to happen whatever date the cutover happens.

Digital broadcasts telling me to get DTV

I also wonder how many people are confused by the fact that they've just gotten whatever was supposed to give them DTV, but they're still getting reminders they need to switch to digital television! Maybe the signal quality will be enough to tell the difference, but there really is no reason to confuse the issue by telling them they still have to do something that they've already done.

Doing it right

It shouldn't be hard to figure out a proper procedure that gets things like this done. Presented for your consideration is the impossibly stupid way of making this work, which somehow seems to elude the grasp of the dolts in Washington, DC. Keep in mind that this all should have been planned already for 3 months ago so you jokers wouldn't be scrambling now for a delay.

Stop mixing content

The medium is the message here. The message that needs to be going out over analog is that people need to act. The message that needs to be going out over digital is that they've successfully upgraded to the future.

Start degrading analog

It is not enough of a reminder to run a 30 minute show or a 30 second ticker every few days. What should have happened with less than a month to go is a 20% reduction in the analog picture size, with the empty area on every channel filled by a permanent scroll across the bottom and a red countdown timer along the edge of the screen. Decrease that by 10% every week, so with 1 week to go the show being broadcast would only take up a quarter of the screen.

At the same time, add suitable audio alerts. For example, give a small beep and flash the countdown timer every hour. Decrease that interval and/or increase the number of beeps as the deadline approaches. Nothing so annoying as to drown out what is being broadcast, but annoying enough to get people motivated to switch to digital.

Make it a converter rebate

I don't know what moron thought up the idea of reserving money for coupons when they get sent, but that person needs to be fired and never again work in a position of responsibility. Anybody with half a clue would have structured the converter box program as a rebate that can be requested after purchase. Not only does that keep funds from getting tied up, but just about any retailer can tell you that most people wouldn't bother with the rebate anyway.

How easy was that?

I may not be the most diplomatic about it, but I at least know how to get the job done. I have to say that supporting the delay does not really speak well to the new administration, either. It is pure hubris to think that a little extra time is all it will take to make things work. If you're going to put the brakes on at the last minute, at least show that you plan to do something with that time to improve the situation.