Friday, February 06, 2009

Three Madison network-affiliated TV stations to rabbit ear owners: Drop Dead

Three Major Madison TV Stations to Rabbit Ear Owners: Drop Dead
Congress had scarcely finished approving the postponement of the digital TV transition until June 12 when Madison's three major commercial network affiliates -- channels 3, 15 and 27 -- expressed their contempt for the intent of Congress and the needs of their viewers by announcing they would go ahead on the original Feb. 17 timetable for shutting off their analog transmitters (channels 21 and 47 are still thinking about it).

After all, only 1% of the viewers in the Madison area would be affected, the stations said -- citing statistics they seem to have pulled out of thin air. (Actually, some cable subscribers aren't even ready -- their set-top boxes output a digital signal, and they'll still need suddenly hard-to-get converters for every analog set attached to the cable, if they haven't already bought them.)

Theoretically, the stations are within their rights -- the law says stations may switch early, but it was thought competitive forces would keep most from switching early. Some competition. Some free market. When the three primary competitors in a small city all make the same decision at the same time, it looks (and smells) a lot more like collusion than competition. Anybody read the antitrust laws lately?

Somebody needs to remind these jokers that they don't own the airwaves. We do, we the public, and they are licensed to use them with our (collective) permission. It's about time they show us some respect.

13 comments:

Nicole said...

At least if channel 21 decides to "cross over" early, their members will be able to let them know how they felt about it at their next donation appeal, and not give donations/pledges

But then again, I can also see where channel 21 may have planned financially according to the original plan of Feb. 17 and may (or may not) be put out by the delay into June.

Michael said...

I can't say I have a lot of sympathy for people who haven't gotten around to getting a converter box or a new TV yet. Seems to me it has been pretty well-publicized for the past year. I think there will always be people who don't get around to it. What happens in June? Another delay because some people aren't ready?

wallrock said...

You're right that we, the public, own the airwaves, but I think one fact that never gets discussed is that we've already sold the rights to the old analog band to the next group of users.

astrogerbil said...

Sorry, Michael - Gov'mint didn't appropriate enough money (typical Gov'mint). For people who have barely enough money to eat, 20 for a converter is a lot; 60 (local full price) is like going to the moon. And the short form of the TV ads said if you're cable-connected, you're OK - but as MadGuy says, that's not necessarily true. So a little less contempt here and a little more understanding is in order: it's the poor, the elderly, the have-nots who are in trouble here. In other words, the usual set of ignored people.

dougie said...

@wallrock: Astoundingly, the government did something right and left the analog spectrum open, ostensibly as a communal asset. Some big dogs with a vested interest in an open network are trying to facilitate this. (See here.)

Anonymous said...

It's TV. Not water, electricity, gas, food, housing, or air. It's entertainment that's lost if you don't have a box. If 6 months isn't enough time to to accumulate $20 for a box, maybe it's time to stop watching TV anyways.

Anonymous said...

Oh no! TV stations are following their original plan instead of flip flopping to the whim of Congress! Conspiracy! Disaster! Doom! Get a life!

Dr Bud Diablo, VHF said...

The beleaguered residents of Zimbabwe and Gaza don't have converter boxes either, although I think that may be the least of their worries. Call me callous, but after I'm done brooding about the victims of starvation, disease and warfare all over the globe, I don't have much empathy left for the boxless here in the US. The audio portions of Madison TV broadcasts are available on the radio, so let the boxless listen to Al Roker while picturing him--no very difficult feat of imagination.

Since you feel differently, though, I challenge you to take action. How about a "BOX OF LOVE" charitable appeal? Ask Letter from Here readers to send PayPal donations; I'll kick things off with a pledge of $5, and I don't even care; imagine the response from those who do! You might be able to organize a Box of Love benefit of some kind.

wallrock said...

@ dougie - you're correct that there is some spectrum that has been left for communal usage, but the majority of the bandwidth is to be divided between public safety communications (fire, police, EMS, etc.) and wireless communications - this is known as the 700 MHz band and the auction took place last year. (link)

Citizen Reader said...

Well, Madison Guy, I can understand your point, but as long as it's coming anyway, I guess I can't get too upset. I'm resigned to the fact that more and more things that used to be free and easy--and TV is a shining example--is now a for-profit enterprise. Yes, I know you can get a converter box (and I have), but let's face it, what they really want you to do is be a good little consumer and go get a new TV and/or cable. Another way they're making it hard: making it nearly impossible to record something off TV (my understanding is you can, but with a converter box/old VCR system, you can only record what you're watching?), because you're just supposed to buy DVR. It's just a little microcosm of technology as we know it: everything supposedly gets better, but really it just gets harder.

Michael said...

I agree that it is an expense to buy a box -- even with the coupon. But, if someone had enough to buy a TV...even if it was years ago, I'm guessing they can find the bucks for a box. I might be out of touch here (wouldn't be the first time), but I don't see the social crisis.

Anonymous said...

The stations can "show their respect" when the public shows them the money. Hundreds of thousands of dollars has gone into equipment for the DTV transfer and not 1 dollar has been paid for by the tax payers.

This transfer has been in effect since Feb. 8th, 2006. That's 1,105 days you've had to get a box. In short, deal with it!

Anonymous said...

The real problem will come when there is a major catastrophe, and very few people will be able to use TV (seen the price of battery operated DTVs lately?) for emergency info. Local radio is a joke for emergency info, since it is usually syndicated crap, with no provision to break for emergency news.