DTV deadline in doubt


Efforts are under way in both houses of Congress to belatedly come up with some kind of a fix for the DTV transition. The coupon program is certainly bogged down; but the answer to the problem is as uncertain as it gets.

The Obama administration has been pushing for a delay of up to 90 days, and has found a willing co-conspirator in new Senate Commerce Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). However, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and others, including Rockefeller’s opposite number on at Commerce, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), have recommended finding a fix for the coupon program and proceeding as scheduled. Martin has noted that all the messaging has been toward 2/17/09 and commented that a change now would only add to the confusion.

The NAB and NCTA have both taken noncommittal positions on the matter, while the big four networks are generally supportive of a delay. But actual stations tend not to support it, since it will add weeks and months to the cost of running side-by-side analog and digital operations, and would disrupt carefully-made technical plans to effectuate the changeover.

Others want the job done on time to make sure the public safety community gets access to spectrum as soon as possible.

RBR/TVBR observation: Just do it. And here’s the coupon solution: If you want a coupon but can’t get it, buy the converter box, keep the receipt and get the money back from NTIA. Simple, right? But some people will get that wrong. And if we delay the transition three months, a lot of those same people will STILL get it wrong.

It seems to us that the people most likely to have problems are the elderly. We would be making plans to bring the elderly and the young together – today’s young people don’t know a world without devices connected to other devices, it’s natural to them, and for the most part they will be quite capable of hooking up a converter box. Get them out to neighborhoods and group housing where the elderly are concentrated, and on top of that make sure messaging stresses that family members should be sure to help elderly relatives and we’ll solve many problems. Based on stats we’ve seen, similar efforts should be made within the Hispanic community in general.

But do it.