Digital TV Switchover- What a Mess This Has Become
By Robert McMillen, Koin’s Tech Guru
Changes to the DTV switchover happened very fast last week and may change again this week. Congress did pass the bill to delay the switchover until June of this year, instead of February 17th, but there’s a catch: TV stations can decide to still changeover earlier if they like.
Most Portland stations, including Koin Local 6, have decided to stay with the February 17th date instead of moving it out to June. You may ask why. Doesn’t everything always come down to money? Ask me any question and the most likely reason is because of money. I think they should add that to all the magic 8 ball list of answers. It could actually be the only answer on all sides of that little triangle. Why doesn’t she love me? Because you don’t make enough money. Why does my car fall apart so often? Because you don’t make enough money. Why is the sky blue? Because you don’t… well, most questions anyway.
There has been a lot of money spent on informing customers of the switchover. Also, new contracts and licenses for broadcasting digitally and not broadcasting in analog are already written in stone. Changing those would be expensive. This is a difficult time for most TV stations. Because of the state of the economy, advertising revenues aren’t what they were before January 1st. Budgets have been slashed, and there are no cash cows like the ads from the elections or Christmas to keep spending up. Unless, of course, you count the money made from all of those “going out of business”, sales.
Pretty soon even the traffic copters will be replaced by audio of two guys in a car overlooking route 26. One guy will report on the traffic while the other thumps his chest to sound like a chopper. Toeing the line on spending is the rule of the day, and maybe the next few months.
So if all the local stations in Portland are likely to go through with the change on 2/17, who is going to continue broadcasting in analog? I believe it will mostly be the rural area TV stations. They don’t normally broadcast off of large shared leased towers, so their costs are minimal to stay analog. Also, their customers are more likely to not have cable or satellite and will benefit the most from the delay.
Last week’s Blog was about answering questions from people on what to do about their old TV sets, and I tried to answer most of them, but we got a new one this week that has a different twist I thought I would share.
Question: “I have two battery operated TVs, one hand held for watching when sitting and waiting and one for camping and emergencies - almost $200 worth. To me that's a lot of money thrown away if I can't use them. I think there are a lot of people in the same situation. Now what? Also, what happens when the power goes out?” Ruth A.Portland
Answer: Well, Ruth, the answer isn’t going to make you happy, although there is a way to save those portables. You could buy a digital convertor and an antenna for a total cost of around $90. The downside is that you just about doubled the price of each portable TV. Plus, it’s not so portable if you have to carry around your TV, batteries, AC adapter, digital convertor, and digital antenna. You could buy a gas generator to carry around with you. Won’t you be a site to see at the church picnic? Portable Digital TVs are becoming available, but are a little bit more expensive.
The alternative would be to use a laptop computer. You don’t even need to have internet access to make it work. Several companies are selling a USB digital receiver that plugs into your computer and allows you to watch all the digital TV you want for $99, and there’s no monthly fees. Here’s a link to a product we know to be pretty reliable: http://registration.hauppauge.com/webstore/hardware2.asp?product=hvr950q
Remember that if you have satellite TV or cable you will not be affected. But guess what? Comcast started mailing all their customers this week that they are cutting off their analog signals on April 15th, just as I had predicted in December. The details are still coming in but in order for you to see channels 32-71 you will need a digital convertor box that will cost $2 a piece above the first two, or $6.99 for fully featured digital boxes to see the channels above 71. If you already have a digital set top box this doesn’t apply. This will allow them to compete with Verizon’s FIOS mentioned in that earlier article here: http://community.koinlocal6.com/blogs/current_hot_topics/archive/2008/12/02/3607347.aspx .
It’s going to be a roller coaster ride of customer complaints the next few months. The lawyers are getting warmed up in the bullpen with class action lawsuits ready to go (after they chase down the last ambulance).
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