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They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Communication breakdown

Congress is in the process of pushing back the digital TV transition, meaning the nationwide analog shutdown - you know, the one you've been warned about at an increasing rate for the past few years - won't take place until June 12.

Fantastic. ... Now, is there anything else we can bungle in this process before the switch goes through in June?

For those keeping score at home, the Digital Transition and Public Safety Act was signed Oct. 20, 2005. So we've had more than three years to brace for the big day. And yet, with less than three weeks until we were supposed to collectively flick the big switch to digital we have:

- 6.5 million Americans who still need digital boxes
- No government money left to help these folks defray the cost.

Who's to blame? Pretty much everybody involved.

You can point the finger at the government and television industry for putting out such a convoluted message, leaving many Americans confused by the whole process. We now have a shortage of converter boxes and government money. I'd like to know how much of that is a result of people who didn't need converter boxes going out and getting them anyway because they were misinformed.

You can point the finger at cable companies for using the transition to sway basic cable subscribers up to digital packages and for running DTV commercials in the first place. Here's a hint: If you can watch cable channels airing these commercials you don't need a converter box. Why didn't every single message put out by cable companies convey this?

And finally, you can point the finger at the aforementioned 6.5 million Americans themselves. Have you been presented with confusing message about whether you need a converter box? Yes. On the other hand: You have had THREE AND A HALF YEARS to figure it out. PBS thanks you in advance for the $22 million it stands to lose thanks to your procrastination.

- Tom Valentino

UPDATE: The House voted down the bill on Wednesday. The Feb. 17 deadline is still on ... for now.


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