March 9, 2007
Two Small Steps Made in Effort to Transition from Analog to Digital Broadcast Television

Two new pieces of news surfaced over the past few days indicating that a more direct and concerted effort will be made to move definitively toward a conversion from analog television sets to digital television sets. First, I read in James Hibberd's weekly HD report that, as of the beginning of this month, companies are restricted from importing any more analog television sets internationally and that interstate trafficking of analog sets has also been prohibited.

I hadn't been aware that the restriction was now law, which doesn't bode well for the public education campaign and the likelihood that the average American has a clue. Hibberd writes, "Trouble is, there are still about 20 million U.S. households using purely analog sets."

As he writes, "The change is expected to cause some hiccups among poor and elderly viewers who are accustomed to a manner of viewing that has been unchanged for decades."

Then, yesterday, I also read news on TelevisionWeek that the Office of Management & Budget is about ready to give approval on setting standards for the converter boxes and the eligibility citizens would have on discount coupons for buying a converter box for their existing analog television sets.

Reporter Ira Teinowitz writes, "Formal promulgation of the rule has been holding up the digital transition. Both the launch of full-scale manufacture of the converter boxes that will be needed for analog TVs when the country switches to digital Feb. 17, 2009, and the government's hiring of a fulfillment house to give out the coupons, good for $40 toward the boxes, have been delayed."

Earlier this month, also based on a report from Ira, I wrote about Rep. John Dingell's speech at the National Association of Broadcasters about how almost everyone had dropped the ball on the digital conversion thus far.

He criticized both the industry and the government bureaucracy for its lack of preparation and expediency in dealing with this conversion. I wrote, "He did acknowledge that it is a daunting task to inform viewers but that what had been done so far is 'regrettably not sufficient to avoid raising Americans' ire.' His criticism in particular of the way in which the Bush Administration (but I would widen this to government in general and the industry as well) was giving so little time and effort to thinking about the massive implication this switch could have in many Americans' lives was particularly apt."

It's no surprise, as I first wrote about back in , that the average American is not well-informed at all about this conversion.

Let's hope, however, that this sudden government movement to at least try and reach the next step, along with the suppression of further sales of analog sets, will at least get us started to make the digital conversion.